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Health Officials Expect COVID-19 Deaths To Climb As LA County Reaches 'Critical Juncture'

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Los Angeles County's coronavirus task force delivered an update on the COVID-19 pandemic. Read highlights below or watch the full video above.

With the rate of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations climbing, local health officials are bracing for an increase in deaths as the region enters "a critical juncture in our pandemic," L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.

"Tragically, we do expect that more of our loved ones and our neighbors may die of COVID-19 in the coming weeks with all of the increases we're seeing in hospitalizations," she said at today's media briefing.

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County officials reported 2,496 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 123,004 cases countywide. In total, 4,690 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 1,415 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

Ferrer also reported 65 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 3,642.

So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said, but she noted that the remaining 7% "represents dozens and dozens of people who may have thought that they were at no risk for having serious illness and even dying from COVID-19, but unfortunately this virus can affect many, many different people."

The rate of infection is also increasing. At the start of June the county was averaging about 1,300 cases a day, Ferrer said. Now it's averaging 2,400 new cases per day.

More than 1.2 million tests for the coronavirus have been conducted and reported to county officials. Of those tests, 9% have been positive, and the overall positivity rate is also rising and now stands at nearly 11%, based on a seven-day average. That's higher than benchmarks set by the state earlier this year meant to guide the speed of reopening.

Ferrer also provided a racial breakdown of the confirmed deaths, based on information confirmed for 3,389 of the victims. According to the latest available information:

  • 11% African American [9% of county residents]
  • 16% Asian [15.4% of county residents]
  • 45% Latino / Latina [48.6% of county residents]
  • 27% White [26.1% of county residents]
  • Less than 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander [0.4% of county residents]
  • 1% identified as belonging to another race or ethnicity
The mortality rate — measured as a number per 100,000 residents — among commuities of color and in neighborhoods with higher poverty levels remains disporportionalely high, and Ferrer noted that the county has so far failed to narrow that gap. She said:
"... it means that we need to redouble all of the efforts to make sure that access to testing, healthcare, support services is there, but we also need to be very mindful of protecting workers often who may be in job situations where they're not getting the protections they need to protect themselves both at work, and then again to protect their community and their families when they go home."

(Courtesy Los Angeles County)
Ferrer also reported that the vast majority of the businesses surveyed by health officials over the holiday weekend were complying with public health guidance on social distancing and face coverings. In total, about 1,100 restaurants, 80 bars, 70 hotels and eight breweries and wineries were visited.

"I want to be clear that this is just a sample, and it doesn't give us the full picture of what's happening all across the county," Ferrer noted. "But they do show major improvements over the samples that we had seen before, and we do hope that these efforts can be sustained."

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