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LA County Health Officials Fact Check Myths About COVID-19

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

Los Angeles County officials reported 2,129 new confirmed cases of coronavirus today, bringing the total to at least 77,189 cases countywide. That large increase is due in part to “a large backlog” in case reporting from one lab, according to County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. In total, 2,712 cases have been reported in Long Beach and 1,058 in Pasadena (those two cities operate their own health departments).

Ferrer also reported 34 new deaths of COVID-19 patients. The total number of deaths countywide now stands at 2,991 people.

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So far, 93% of those who have died had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said.

She added that the county has "made a steady improvement in the decline of daily deaths" In early May, 45 to 46 people per day were dying from the virus on average. For early June, the daily death rate has dropped to 33 to 34 deaths per day, Ferrer said. But those figures should be viewed with caution, she explained:

"...we have lags in data on the reporting of deaths, so it's very helpful to look at it in terms of understanding the trend. The actual numbers will get adjusted over time as we have more complete reporting"

ADDRESSING MYTHS ABOUT COVID-19

Dr. Christina Ghaly, who oversees the county's Department of Health Services, took time at Wednesday's media briefing to address some of the myths being spread as the health crisis continues. She broke those down into five "misperceptions" and sought to set the record straight. The following list explains what Ghaly said is actually true about COVID-19 in L.A. County:

  1. An increase in reported cases isn’t solely due to increased testing — the virus is still continuing to spread. According to Ghaly, "more people are becoming infected and also, at the same time, we are identifying a greater fraction of those who are infected through the county's expansion of testing capacity to understand the actual... effective transmission rate in the county."
  2. The number of new cases is not the most important metric health officials are looking at. The hospitalization rate is a more helpful metric, Ghaly said, because it helps health officials better understand how the transmission rate is changing and the impact on the county's health care system.
  3. Just because restrictions are being lifted does not mean COVID-19 is under control in L.A. County. L.A. County's safer-at-home order helped slow the spread of the virus, but was also a "very crude measure," Ghaly said. "Reopening is just as important for the health of our society as closing was, but given that the vast majority of those living in Los Angeles County are still susceptible to COVID-19 and the infection, we need to rely on a refined set of practices that allow us to get back to work and back to living our lives safely."
  4. This is not an overreaction to a virus that’s basically the flu. COVID-19 is killing far more Americans than the seasonal flu typically does, Ghaly explained. "During mid-April, the counted deaths for COVID-19 in the United States were 15,000 per week," she said. "During a typical peak week of seasonal influenza, the count of deaths are more like 750." Ghaly added that the long-term health effects of COVID-19 are not yet fully understood, but said health officials are learning "that the long-term health consequences on many who survive are significant."
  5. Masks and other basic health measures make a difference. Keeping distance, avoiding gatherings, washing your hands and wearing face coverings have all been shown to limit the risk of spreading the virus, Ghaly said, despite what some on social media or at public meetings in Orange County are screaming. "I know it's a long road and I know it's longer than many of us would have predicted and certainly longer than many of us would have hoped for," Ghaly said, "but we can go on it safely if each and every one of us commits to doing the simple things that we know will make a difference."

OVERALL LOOK AT LA COUNTY NUMBERS:

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Here's a look at longer-term trends in the county. To see more, visit our California COVID-19 Tracker and choose L.A. County or any other California county that interests you. These numbers are current as of Tuesday, June 15:

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