Covid Cases Spike Over 3,000 in LA County as Death Toll Surpasses 50

An electron microscopic close-up of an isolate from the first case of coronavirus in the U.S. (Image courtesy of CDC)

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Widespread testing for the novel coronavirus in Los Angeles County brought the number of cases of the deadly respiratory disease to over 3,000 on Tuesday as well as the death of a county health worker.

LA County health officials announced 548 new cases Tuesday, following a trend of rising figures as more testing becomes available.

Across the state of California, the virus has claimed the lives of 150 people and 6,932 are now infected. LA County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer said “we have more than tripled the number of positive cases” in the last week.

Ten new deaths were reported in LA County, bringing the death toll there to 54.

“These aren’t just numbers,” said Ferrer. “These are real people and they’re being mourned today by their family and their friends.”

With testing ramped up, LA County has seen 890 new confirmed cases in the last 48 hours. Over 19,000 residents had been tested as of Tuesday.

On March 17, the county had just under 100 confirmed cases. The rise in infected speaks to the spread of the novel coronavirus among LA County’s 10.4 million residents.

“If there are more infected people there is a greater possibility to infect others,” said Ferrer.

Plans to open additional testing sites are underway. Currently, county health officials report an average of 1,500 tests conducted per day.

Meanwhile, California Gavin Newsom made headlines Monday by deciding to relax certain medical practice regulations to expand the state’s health care workforce. By Tuesday, the state was already seeing results.

According to Newsom, more than 25,000 recently retired or part-time doctors, nursing and medical school students answered the call and are willing to risk their lives to save their fellow Californians.

“I’ve never been more damn inspired in my life,” Newsom said in a daily briefing Tuesday afternoon. “To see that number, 25,000 yesterday alone, of professionals that are willing to come out of retirement to put their lives back on the line knowing that the personal protective equipment may not be there when they go back out into the hospital room — that makes me sleep well at night.”

Also Tuesday, Newsom reported 1.6 million Californians have filed for unemployment since the health crisis began. And while all Californians with nonessential jobs have been ordered to remain at home, Newsom is particularly concerned about the order’s harm to the state’s older residents.

To break through the isolation, Newsom asked residents to check on their neighbors and help them with things like grocery shopping and prescription refills. He said the state has launched a public service campaign and hotline to connect the state’s over 5 million seniors to necessary services during the pandemic.

“I don’t want to be hearing stories that someone finally knocked on a door and no one answered, only to find out after opening the door that someone passed away because we didn’t meet the moment,” Newsom said of the need to assist the state’s golden generation.

As of Tuesday, California has the third most confirmed cases of any state as well as over 1,600 hospitalizations, 657 of them in intensive care units.

Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide shelter-in-place order March 19. Since then, he has granted California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye the authority to “to take any action she deems necessary” to maintain operations, halted residential evictions through May and given small businesses a 90-day extension on their first-quarter sales taxes.

During daily briefings, Newsom has shied away from criticizing actions taken during the pandemic by the Trump administration. Instead, the Democratic governor has taken to complimenting President Donald Trump for keeping communication lines open and for going after people for hoarding medical equipment.

Newsom’s tactic has produced results already, as last week Trump sent a massive U.S. Navy hospital ship to California to assist with patients not afflicted with the virus. The USNS Mercy has begun accepting its first Southern California patients at the Port of Los Angeles.

Aside from the truce with Trump, Newsom has secured valuable contributions from the private sector including over 1,000 ventilators from Tesla, $25 million from Facebook to help with the medical staffing surge and the use of a Virgin Airlines Boeing 747. 

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