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Coronavirus Cases, Death Rate 'Extremely High' Among Native Hawaiians And Pacific Islanders In LA County

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Los Angeles County officials reported 1,541 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 22,485 cases countywide. Of those cases, Long Beach reported 602 and Pasadena reported 383 (both cities operate their own health departments).

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer also reported 56 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 1,056.

Of the people who have died so far, 92% had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. That statistic that has not changed for two weeks.

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Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 977 of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 13% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 18% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
  • 38% Latino/Latina [48.6% of county residents]
  • 28% White [26.1% of county residents]
  • 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% identified as belonging to a different race or ethnicity

The rates of confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 are "extremely high" among native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in L.A. County, Ferrer said.
According to U.S. Census data, native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders make up less than half a percent of L.A. County residents but account for about 1% of COVID-19 deaths right now, according to the county's estimates.

Regarding the socioeconomic disparities that have emerged in infection and fatality rates, she added:

"Rates of cases and deaths are also higher among people with less income while the rate of testing increases as income increases. These trends are troubling and of great concern, and they suggest that more affluent residents may have better access to COVID-19 testing and to health treatment services — even as the rates of infection appear to be higher among lower-income communities and many communities of color."

Ferrer added that there's an urgent need "to expand access to culturally competent testing, treatment and prevention strategies" for African Americans, Latinos and Latinas, and native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in L.A. County.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, who oversees the county's Department of Health Services, presented a series of slides to show county-level modeling. One thing public health officials have learned: COVID-19 patients are staying in hospitals longer than originally projected.

(Courtesy L.A. County)

"We're still learning about the clinical treatment and the course progression of those with COVID-19 and are learning directly from the experience of real patients in Los Angeles County who have the disease and are receiving care across public and private hospitals," Ghaly said. "Despite this increase in the length of stay, we are still well within the hospital system's capacity to meet our anticipated demand for beds."

Ghaly also noted that L.A. County continues to have "a sufficient supply of ventilators" for patients who need them.

The countywide effort to flatten the curve through social distancing and the stay-at-home order has been working, Ghaly added, but she offered this warning, based on the current projections:

"The model continues to show that we must maintain physical distancing, and that if we were to pare that back suddenly to pre-order levels, the situation would be dire, with the vast majority of virtually all of the county... infected by summer."

Here are some other key figures being reported today:
  • More than 139,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 and had the results reported to county health officials. Of those tests, 14% have been positive.
  • There are currently 1,940 people hospitalized with COVID-19. Of those individuals, 28% are in the ICU, with 17% on ventilators.
  • In total 4,715 people who've tested positive for coronavirus in L.A. County have "at some point" been hospitalized, Ferrer said, which represents 22% of all positive cases.
  • The death toll at the county's institutional settings, particularly nursing homes, continues to climb. Ferrer reported that 498 residents at those facilities have died and all had underlying health conditions. That number represents 47% of all deaths countywide.
  • The large increase in cases reported today was due in large part to increased testing at institutional facilities, Ferrer said. The county health department is currently investigating 329 institutional facilities where there's at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. Those sites include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers, supportive living and correctional facilities.
  • Ferrer said there are now 4,950 confirmed cases in those institutional settings — 3,041 residents and 1,902 staff members.
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