Nearly half of all cases of the novel coronavirus in California have been in LA County.
LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles County is seeing 1,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus daily and over a third of all Covid-related deaths in the county have been from places like nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, health officials reported Friday.
Outbreaks at communal living facilities — which have killed over 200 residents so far, accounting for over 40% of all county deaths — prompted LA County public health officials to ask for help from the California National Guard earlier this week. LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said National Guard assistance was dispatched to four locations to help with staff shortages.
Lt. Col. Jonathan Shiroma of the National Guard told the Southern California News Group that the four eight-person teams were sent to nursing homes in the cities of Pasadena, Gardena and Los Angeles.
Health officials announced a new mandate requiring residents and staff at facilities like nursing homes to be tested for the novel coronavirus even if they are asymptomatic or otherwise healthy. Both staff and residents will regularly have their temperature checked and will have to wear surgical masks and avoid communal dining.
“With all of the recent literature and experience here in LA County, it’s become really clear that asymptomatic people are in fact both infected with the virus and capable of shedding the virus,” said Ferrer. “They’re capable of infecting others.”
The mandate shows health officials are “acknowledging this new reality” said Ferrer, as just a few weeks ago only people with flu-like symptoms were being tested and others were being quarantined if they were likely exposed to someone infected with Covid-19 virus.
LA County saw 52 new deaths and 1,035 new infections since Thursday. The county death toll stands at 848, and so far 18,517 residents have been infected with the virus according to Friday’s update.
County health officials expect the trend of 1,000 or more new cases daily will continue as more testing has become available.
The number of cases in California approached 41,000 on Friday; nearly half of the state’s cases have been in LA County.
Like many other health officials across the country, Ferrer addressed comments by President Donald Trump on Thursday when he claimed “disinfectant” could be injected into a person’s body to fight the coronavirus.
“Don’t inject or ingest or even put on your body any disinfectants for cleaning purposes,” Ferrer said. “It’s extremely dangerous. No scientific evidence that they would either be safe or help prevent you from becoming infected. They’re not a therapeutic medicine.”
Trump said Friday he was being “sarcastic” despite being surrounded by health experts when he made those claims.
Also Friday, LA County saw a lawsuit by nine county jail inmates and two advocacy groups over the lack of health care at jails. One of the plaintiffs says she reported her flu-like symptoms to jail staff at the Century Regional Detention Facility but was only been given cold medicine and has not been tested for coronavirus.
In a statement, attorney Dan Stormer of Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai said people will die unless the LA County Sheriff’s Department dramatically reduces the population in its jails and follows U.S. Centers for Disease and Control coronavirus guidelines.
“There are life threatening risks to all incarcerated people and, most particularly, to the high percentage of medically vulnerable prisoners,” Stormer said. “These are the prisoners who are most likely to become severely ill or to die should they become infected. We are unapologetic in our fight to save the lives of our clients, as well as staff at these facilities and their communities.”
In his daily California briefing, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a meal delivery program with an aim toward helping California’s 1.2 million seniors who live alone and sparking economic activity in the ravaged food service sector.
“We are going to provide the type of nutrition and support seniors deserve,” Newsom said of his plan to partner with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to craft and deliver three daily meals to qualifying seniors.
To qualify, people must be over the age of 65 and met one of four conditions: be at severe risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus; have an income 60% below the federal poverty level; be impacted by Covid-19; have a compromised immune system.
The federal government will pick up the tab of up to $16 for breakfast, $17 for lunch and $28 for dinner.
Newsom said he would like to see local restaurants in communities that have been financially hurt by the lockdown orders take the initiative in providing meals to qualified seniors.
“I would like to see our restaurants up and running again,” he said.
There are 5.7 million seniors in California, 1.2 million of whom live alone. Many of them are not able to cook for themselves on a regular basis.
Even if all the seniors who qualify do not take advantage of the program and only 100,000 seniors get two or three meals per day, Newsom estimates millions of meals could be served as part of the program.
“We are supporting our seniors, but also our restaurant and hospitality industry,” he said.
A focus on seniors is particularly important as California inches toward rolling back aspects of its stay-at-home order. While people under the age of 65 may soon be able to return to work and regain a semblance of normalcy in their daily lives, seniors may be ordered to stay at home for a longer period — possibly until a vaccine is developed or herd immunity is reached, Newsom said.
But both prospects are at least a year away under the most aggressively optimistic timetables.
Newsom hinted that next week his administration would begin to give more information about peeling back elements of the lockdown orders. The governor has already allowed elective surgeries to proceed, a concession that indicates Covid-19 hospitalization rates are low enough to allow hospitals to diversify their operations.
New hospitalizations flattened by the end of this week and while ICU admissions went up from Thursday to Friday, the figure only rose by 1%. However, new coronavirus cases went up by 5%.
“We are not in a position where when we look at those six indicators there are any new lights turning to green,” he said.
The six indicators that must be met for California to begin to reopen include an increase in testing capacity, the ability to prevent infection among the most vulnerable, the ability of hospitals to accommodate a surge in cases, the development of an adequate supply of therapeutics, the ability for schools, child care facilities and businesses to meet physical distancing standards and metrics for the reinstitution of stay-at-home orders.
“We don’t have debates about dates,” Newsom said. “We are only guided by the indicators as to when we can reopen safely, judiciously and thoughtfully.”
As some areas of California with fewer cases are pushing for a more rapid reopening, Newsom recognized the force of regionalism in a state as wide and diverse as California. But he emphasized the need for a statewide order, saying that the virus recognizes no boundaries and could easily be carried to places with low rates of infections if residents are allowed or encouraged to circulate around the state again.