LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County has passed the milestone of 15,000 COVID-19 deaths, with more than a third of those coming after Christmas.
On Saturday, Public Health confirmed 269 new deaths and 10,537 new coronavirus cases.
There are 6,881 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, and 24% are in the ICU. This is the first time since Dec. 29 that daily hospitalizations decreased to less than 7,000 patients. But while that number is down, health care workers and ICU capacity remain overwhelmed, with the Southern California Region continuing to have 0% available ICU capacity and remaining under the Regional Stay at Home Order.
Of the 269 new deaths reported Saturday, 82 people were over the age of 80; 85 were between 65 and 79; 52 were between 50 and 64; 15 were between 30 and 49; and one was between 18 and 29. Nine deaths each were reported by the cities of Long Beach and Pasadena.
Eight new cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) are also being reported by Public Health. This brings the total cases of MIS-C in L.A. County to 62 children, one of whom has died. All 62 were hospitalized and 45% were treated in the ICU. Of the children with MIS-C, 31% were under 5 years old; 37% were between 5 and 11; and 32% were between 12 and 20.
Latino/Latinx children account for nearly 74% of the reported cases.
MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19. Symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. If you believe your child is displaying MIS-C symptoms, contact your primary care or urgent care provider. Seek emergency care for critical or life-threatening conditions. If you do not have a primary care provider, dial 211 and L.A. County will help connect you to one.
Meanwhile, Public Health continued to urge patience among residents anxious to get a COVID-19 vaccination, with supplies remaining woefully short and the overburdened online reservation system leaving many people frustrated as they try to schedule appointments.
"We are also seeing a decline in hospitalizations and several other indicators we track, including test positivity rate, percentage of emergency department visits associated with COVID-19 and percentage of respiratory specimens positive for COVID at sentinel laboratory surveillance sites," said Dr. Paul Simon, the county Department of Public Health's chief science officer.
"However, despite these promising trends, I do want to emphasize that the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far too high," he said. "So while there's reason to be hopeful, we all must remain vigilant and continue to be disciplined, wearing masks, physically distancing when outside the home, avoiding gatherings and washing our hands frequently."
Simon urged people to remain patient with efforts to administer vaccines, again pointing to a shortage of doses on hand and continued uncertainty about future allocations. He noted that the county's large-scale vaccination sites that opened this week -- each capable of administering 4,000 shots per day -- will be operating at much lower capacity next week, likely in the 2,000 to 2,500 range.
The county expects to receive about 143,900 more doses of vaccine next week. However, since people need to receive two doses of the medication, spaced three to four weeks apart, the bulk of the vaccine coming next week will be used to administer second doses to people who have already received the first shot. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer estimated earlier that only 37,900 of the doses coming next week will be available for people to receive their first dose.
Simon said Friday that the most recent figures showed that 441,140 doses of vaccine have already been administered in the county, although he said that number is likely much higher due to delays in tallying vaccination totals.
As of this week, the county had received about 853,000 total doses.
Simon said people should not look at those numbers and assume there are 400,000 unused doses in the county, noting again the lag in vaccination reports and the daily administration of doses. He also noted the need for much of the medication to be used as second doses for people who have already received the first shot.
If the county's weekly allotment doesn't dramatically improve beyond the current average of about 150,000, "the vaccination effort will likely extend well into 2022," Simon said. "We are hopeful vaccine production and shipments to California will increase," he said. "We have a new federal administration that has pledged to make this happen. We are also hopeful that several other vaccine manufacturers will receive federal authorization for emergency use of their vaccines in the coming months, and that should help increase supplies to California and ultimately to Los Angeles County.'"
He said if the county can get its allocation increased to 500,000 per week, "we would have the potential to reach 75% of the adult population in the county, or 6 million adults, by mid-summer."
In the meantime, he urged patience, saying, "We do understand how important it is to get vaccine out as quickly as possible."
He said the state is upgrading its vaccine-appointment website, to which the county system is linked, so it should operate more smoothly as early as next week. County residents trying to make appointments should use the county website vaccinatelacounty.com.
The county also has a call-in reservation system, which is available from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 833-540-0473. But that line should be used only by people unable to use the website, since call volumes are already exceedingly high, Simon said.