LOS ANGELES (CN) — Over half a million Covid-19 cases are now confirmed in Los Angeles County, marking another grim milestone as hospitals wrestle with a new surge of cases that health officials say are linked to the Thanksgiving holiday.
The rate of new cases continues to eclipse previous records set since the start of the pandemic, with the first several days of December showing no signs of slowing down. On Friday, LA County Public Health reported over 13,800 new cases, just one day after a daily case total of 12,800 new cases.
In total, the county confirmed 501,635 Covid-19 cases and 8,199 dead.
LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer called the current onslaught of new cases a post-Thanksgiving surge based on the actions people took during the week-long holiday.
“We cannot undo what’s already been done and collectively we’re going to all pay a very high price for the actions we were taking in the past,” Ferrer said.
County health officials instituted a stay-at-home order in the last week of November but the effects of the health order will not be felt for another two weeks because the incubation period for the virus is about 14 days.
“If we can’t start seeing a stop to the surge two weeks from now, I’ll be back here really pleading again with people to do everything possible to protect our health care systems, our essential workers and all of us from what really is an avoidable tragedy,” Ferrer said during a media briefing on Friday.
County health officials estimate 1 in 140 people are infectious, but model projections from USC’s Keck School of Medicine shows that rate is likely closer to 1 in 50 people or 2% of the county’s population.
The current surge began in early November but ramped up after the holiday break.
Ferrer said it would be catastrophic if another surge spiked after the winter holidays.
But the cold reality is that projections show hospitals could be overrun in the next two weeks based on the average number of confirmed Covid-19 infections reported in the county this past week.
Just two weeks ago, the average number of cases was 4,200. Last week, it jumped to 6,200.
But in the last week the daily average was 10,283, the highest it has ever been since the start of the pandemic.
This could represent a new breaking point for hospitals that report about 3,000 people are now admitted, with nearly 700 in the intensive care unit.
Based on the current daily case average, hospitals could see more than 7,300 people admitted and over 1,600 in ICU in the next two weeks.
Health officials are bracing for the deluge of people who have yet to feel the effects of the virus but will need to be hospitalized in the coming days.
Ferrer said Surge tents with staffed beds could be set up, but if the surge persists for weeks or months, then the health care system could collapse and will force doctors and nurses to make difficult decisions about which patients they prioritize for care.
“We’ve seen pictures of what a completely overwhelmed hospital system looks like,” Ferrer said. “It can unfortunately end up with compromises of care that none of us ever want to experience. We don’t have to. We are not there yet. The question is whether we can stop the surge.”