Los Angeles County officials as of Wednesday were no longer counting a Lancaster teen’s death as a COVID-19 fatality as they waited for further assessment of the case by federal health officials.
The county’s announcement of the minor’s death had raised new concerns on Tuesday, with Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris later describing the patient as a recently healthy 17-year-old boy who died of septic shock from contracting the coronavirus.
“We’re the first city in the nation to lose a child and that is unbearable to me,” Parris had said.
On Wednesday, L.A. County’s top health official said that patient tested positive for COVID-19 but that there may be an alternative diagnosis.
“Our heartfelt prayers for the family as they too await for the clarification of the actual cause of death,” said Department Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, declining to provide further information on the case.
Ferrer, who was speaking at a news conference for the third day this week, also announced three additional COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County. The new cases bring the region’s death toll to 13.
All three patients were over the age of 65 and had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. One of them lived in Gardena and the other in Wilmington. Information about the third patient was not yet available, officials said.
Authorities also announced the countywide expansion of homeless shelters during the outbreak, and that they’re reaching out to people on the streets who may be at a higher risk if they contract COVID-19.
So far, L.A. County has confirmed a total of 799 cases of COVID-19, with more expected as testing becomes available.
As of Wednesday, 11% of the 6,300 people the county have tested so far were diagnosed with COVID-19.
About 1% of COVID-19 patients in the county have died, compared to the 1.5% mortality rate for the U.S., Ferrer said.
“I want to note that this is a higher rate of what we experience annually for influenza,” Ferrer said.
According to the county, 44 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized—77% of whom are in intensive care units. A little more than half of the patients in the ICU are 60 or older.
Four of the hospitalized patients are in their 30s, and 26 people are 60 or up, Ferrer said.