Record Amount of New Coronavirus Infections Plague Los Angeles County

Health workers in Los Angeles County collect residents’ blood samples at a drive-up testing site in early April as part of a study to detect antibodies in people who contracted Covid-19 but later recovered after infection. (Courtesy of LA County Department of Public Health)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles County reported a record-breaking 4,500 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Thursday and over 7,300 new cases in the last 48 hours.

 LA County continues to be the epicenter of new infections in California with thousands of new cases daily and over 2,000 people currently hospitalized according to health officials. In total, over 147,000 residents in LA County have tested positive for Covid-19.

“This week we’ve hit concerning milestones,” said LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “We have reported the most cases in a single day, the most hospitalizations and tragically high death numbers. Each case represents a person that is capable of, and in all probability is, infecting at least one other person. If you do the math, it is easy to see why the alarm.”

Ferrer said in a statement that accompanied Thursday’s numbers that the 4,600 new positive cases could lead to over 18,000 infected people in a few weeks.

“And this is just from one day of new cases. Without aggressive action on the part of every person, we will not get back to slowing the spread,” she said.

Covid-19 outbreaks in Los Angeles continue to spread at an alarming rate and that is most evident in manufacturing plants, wholesale warehouses and other job sectors that re-opened in the last several weeks.

Public health officials say they receive 2,000 to 3,000 complaints a week to inspect worksites that are out of compliance with the county’s health order, where employees reportedly are not provided adequate personal protective equipment or where they work too close to one another.

As of Thursday, nearly 4,000 LA County residents have died from the virus.

The spread of the virus has resurged across the region in recent weeks. In Los Angeles County, Latino residents make up more than half of all deaths and that group is twice as likely to become infected with Covid-19, according to LA County Public Health.

The disparity is most obvious in the data where Black and Latino residents are dying at a higher rate than white residents, said LA County Health Officer Muntu Davis. The high number of deaths and infections is linked to workers returning back to their jobs.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the disproportionality can be traced to the fact that a significant number of essential workers are low income or people of color,” Davis said during a Thursday press briefing. “Oftentimes people who are low income cannot stay home to work and early in the pandemic there were few protections offered at many worksites. There were no requirements for masking or physical distancing. Many places infection control was not a focus.”

The clearest example of the explosion of cases among crowded workplaces is the garment manufacturer Los Angeles Apparel, a clothing company that most recently was making cloth face masks, but was shut down by health officials last week after the death of four employees.

As of Thursday, 375 employees tested positive for the virus and the south LA factory remains closed.

Davis said, “Anecdotally, I can tell you that we’re seeing outbreaks in all kinds of workplaces.”

The workplaces with the largest outbreaks have a lot in common including high numbers of low wage workers who are spending long shifts together close to one another. Davis said access to testing for communities of color has been lower than with other demographics and health officials plan to address that in the coming weeks when they integrate testing sites in existing medical centers.

“That is really a constant adjustment to figure out what is best in terms of improving. I will say that as we go through this none of this stuff is ever perfect when we do it,” Davis said.

In total, over 143,000 residents tested positive for the virus in LA County and a record-breaking 2,193 people are currently hospitalized. Hospitalizations dramatically ticked up starting in mid-June and continue to rise.

In neighboring Orange County, health officials report more than 12,600 of the county’s total cases have been reported in the last two weeks, adding to the conditions that have placed the county on the state’s monitoring list.

Orange County reported 873 confirmed cases Thursday and 911 on Wednesday. In total, 27,904 residents have tested positive for the virus. Eleven more people are dead due to the virus, including six who lived in a skilled nursing facility, bringing the total dead to 466. Last week, Orange County reported 58 deaths.

The county has at least 36.5% of its ICU beds available and 64% of its ventilators on hand in case of any surge in cases, according to county public health data.

Both positive cases and deaths decreased slightly as the county ramps up testing capacity, said Orange County Health Care Agency Director Clayton Chau.

Chau said Thursday that county health officials saw an uptick in Covid-19 transmission at restaurants after indoor dining restrictions were loosened earlier this month and that cases stemming from that business sector decreased after the state reimposed restrictions.

Health inspectors this past weekend checked 217 businesses in the county to gauge compliance with new standards but issued no citations, Chau said.

“What it means is that infection happens in the community and that people bring it back into the workplace,” Chau said. “Clearly we have a huge effort in educating the community members in what to do.”

Orange County CEO Frank Kim said county officials are using $10 million in CARES Act funding to help businesses comply with new public health standards.

“We want to ensure that we’re providing the incentive for businesses to voluntarily comply with guidelines established by the state but that, as we ramp up review and enforcement, there a balance of encouraging businesses to abide by all the criteria as well as ensure that where we identify violations we work with state as required,” Kim said.

Health officials also opened a mass testing site at the Anaheim Convention Center this week, adding up to 1,200 tests per day, though Chau said officials are prioritizing testing slots for people experiencing symptoms from the coronavirus or frontline workers.

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