Coronavirus Cases In L.A. County Top 7,500 As Deaths Near 200

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The county's health director warns that stay-at- home and other protective orders will remain in effect for weeks to come after more than two dozen new coronavirus deaths were reported in Los Angeles County, pushing the total close to 200, while the overall number of cases topped 7,500.

“I know this is temporary. I know it's going to change and we will get back to many of our normal routines, but it will take significant time,” public health director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. “And please understand that we have weeks to go before we're able to lift any of our health officer orders.

“...We're going to get through this together, L.A. County, and I'm grateful for all that you're doing.”

Ferrer reported 29 new deaths in the county, although three of them had been previously reported late Tuesday by Long Beach health officials. Long Beach announced one additional death Wednesday afternoon, raising that city's total deaths to seven.

Of the new deaths reported by the county Department of Public Health, 17 people were over age 65, with 16 of them having underlying health conditions. Seven of the county's deaths occurred in people between 18 and 40, and five of them had underlying health problems. The new deaths raised the county's overall death toll to 199.

The new death reported by Long Beach was a man in his 80s with underlying health conditions.

Another 620 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the county, Ferrer said, raising the overall total to 7,530. Long Beach subsequently reported another 29 cases, raising the city's total to 285 and the county's overall number to 7,559. Pasadena, which also has its own health department, has reported 80 cases and three deaths.

The mortality rate among coronavirus patients in the county continued to rise slowly, reaching 2.6% on Wednesday, Ferrer said. The figure means 2.6% of the people who have tested positive for the illness in the county have died. Last week, the mortality rate was 1.8%.

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The county's coronavirus cases include 43 cases that occurred in jail settings -- three inmates and 40 staff members -- along with 10 cases in the state prison system -- eight inmates and two staffers. Two cases have been reported in a county juvenile facility, both involving staff members at the Barry Nidorf juvenile hall in Sylmar.

Los Angeles County education officials passed a resolution Wednesday calling for the immediate release of students detained in juvenile halls and camps to protect their health and well-being in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The resolution advocates the release of students now incarcerated or awaiting trial who are nonviolent offenders, have compromised immune systems or underlying health conditions, are nearing the end of their camp placement and who pose no danger to themselves or others.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Probation Department, operates fully accredited high schools that offer comprehensive educational services to young people detained in the county's juvenile halls and camps. The programs currently serve some 600 students, most of whom are young men of color.

Twelve cases have been confirmed among the county's homeless population, up from two on Tuesday. Four cases have been reported in homeless shelters, involving two residents and two staff members.

Ferrer said there are now 131 institutional settings -- such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons -- that have had at least one case. Those institutions have had a total of 596 cases and 37 deaths, all among residents.

As of Tuesday, roughly 36,500 people have been tested for the virus in the county, although Ferrer noted that number is likely low, since multiple new testing sites have opened in recent days but figures have not yet been gathered from those new locations.

The county has set a goal of testing 10,000 people per day. With roughly 10% of those people ultimately testing positive, Ferrer has warned that the daily increases in case numbers will likely approach about 1,000.

New testing centers opened Wednesday at East Los Angeles College and at the Charles Drew University medical campus in Willowbrook. The county now has more than 20 testing centers across the region. Those centers and others operated by individual cities are restricted to people showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Ferrer noted that as of Wednesday, 324 health care workers have tested positive. More than half of them work in hospitals, but other cases have occurred at outpatient facilities and emergency medical services personnel. Nurses have had the largest number of cases, but doctors, paramedics and emergency medical technicians have also tested positive. Two health care workers in the county have died from the virus.

Ferrer also issued a warning for people serving as caregivers for the disabled, saying they need to take extra care to avoid exposing their patients.

“If they have any symptoms of illness, they should stay home and an alternate caregiver should be sent to your home,” Ferrer said. “Even if they don't show any signs of illness, caregivers should always wear disposable gloves and a face mask, and any time when their job requires close contact with you. You need to have all surfaces wiped down frequently, particularly those surfaces that you're both touching, and it's a good idea to also make sure you're wiping down any equipment regularly.”

Photos: Getty Images

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