LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of coronavirus cases in L.A. County has grown to 3,524, with 513 new cases confirmed, and the death toll grew to 65 after officials reported 11 new fatalities.
Nine of the 11 new deaths reported Wednesday were people over the age of 65, while one was between 18 and 40 and one was between 41 and 65. Nine of the 11 people had underlying health conditions, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health.
With 513 new cases, Los Angeles County had a total of 3,518 total COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday. Ferrer confirmed that five of those cases involved homeless people -- a group that had been largely absent from the total until the past week. She said there are no reports of any deaths among the homeless.
Long Beach, which has a health department separate from the county, confirmed six new cases of the illness Wednesday afternoon, raising the countywide total to 3,524. Long Beach has a total of 139 cases.
According to Ferrer, 733 people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the county have been hospitalized at some point. On Wednesday, 341 people were hospitalized, and 76% of them have “no documented underlying health conditions.”
“I want to stress that people in the hospital are dispersed among all age categories, and there are a significant number of people who are requiring hospital care who do not have underlying health conditions,” Ferrer said, adding that the disease “does cause serious illness among people of all ages.”
Ferrer said health officials are investigating coronavirus cases at 43 “institutional settings” -- such as nursing homes, skilled nursing centers, assisted living facilities, residential treatment programs, shelters, jails and prisons. She said there have been a total of 207 positive cases at those 43 facilities, and seven people have died.
She echoed new guidance that people with the virus can potentially spread it 48 hours before they show any symptoms, and said “there may be a benefit” for people to wear a mask when going out in public, reflecting a new attitude by medical authorities.
Ferrer stressed that residents should not be buying surgical or high- tech N95 masks that are desperately needed by health-care providers, but can instead use items such as scarves, bandannas or fabric. She said people may benefit by wearing a “homemade” mask.
“What they do is they can prevent droplets from coming out of our mouths and potentially infecting others,” she said. “Remember this is a disease that's spread with respiratory droplets. Sometimes when you talk, some droplets can come out. If you wear that mask, especially now that we know you could be spreading even if you have no symptoms, you would reduce the number of droplets carrying a virus, potentially, from getting onto somebody else.
“But wearing a mask is not a shield, and it doesn't replace our request that you stay at home, that you always are practicing social distancing, that you're using handwashing as your major means to make sure you're not infecting yourself after touching something or someone who may be infected, and that you're self-isolating and self-quarantined when it's appropriate.
“It's just another tool that we can add to our list of tools that are available to help us to prevent infecting others and help others from (infecting) us.”
She said 79% of the county's cases are people between the ages of 18 and 65.
County officials said hospitals across the area are making plans for an anticipated surge in cases in the coming weeks.
The Los Angeles Convention Center has been set up as a federal field hospital, with California National Guard members helping to prepare the facility over the weekend.
The Los Angeles Unified School District, meanwhile, will begin operating a mental health hotline today to help students and families coping with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
The hotline, which can be reached at 213-241-3840, will be staffed by counselors and mental health professionals on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., LAUSD officials said. Hotline operators will be available to speak to people in English or Spanish.
Photos: Getty Images