Los Angeles County reported 55 more deaths related to the novel coronavirus on Thursday, April 30, as public health officials ramped up efforts to limit the spread of the virus at nursing homes, where nearly half of the county’s 1,111 COVID-19 deaths have taken place.
The county began reporting this week deaths at institutional settings, which comprise 47% of the countywide total. Most of the deaths have occurred among nursing home residents, but assisted-living facilities, correctional institutions, group homes and treatment centers are also within the definition of “institutional settings.”
Bell Convalescent Hospital has had the most deaths, with 19 so far, as of Thursday. Alden Terrace Convalescent Hospital, in Los Angeles, was next, with 17. Grand Park Convalescent Hospital, also in Los Angeles, has seen 14 people die. Alcott Rehabilitation Hospital, in LA, and Alameda Care Center, in Burbank, has had 13 deaths each.
The county, meanwhile, set a goal this week of testing all nursing home residents and staff members at facilities where at least one case has occurred. Health officials had outbreak investigations going at 307 facilities as of Thursday. The number of settings with outbreaks has gone down, as several investigations closed after the requisite 14 days passed since the last positive test result, said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of Public Health.
While more than 90% of those who died overall had chronic health problems, the coronavirus infects people of all ages and can be fatal even in otherwise healthy people. Among those whose deaths were reported Thursday was one person from 18 to 40 years old, without underlying health conditions.
“Although older people are more likely to pass away and have severe illness form COVID-19,” Ferrer said, “every day for the past week and half, I’ve reported on a number of people who unfortunately lost their lives and were younger than 40.”
The county also confirmed Thursday 733 more cases, bringing the county’s total to 23,182. Many have recovered already, though the county does not have exact numbers. The number of people hospitalized rose slightly on Thursday to nearly 2,000 patients, aligning with modelling projections issued a day earlier.
As for testing among the general public, symptomatic people will still receive priority, though the range of symptoms expanded recently to include chills, shaking with chills, muscle pain and sore throat, as well as fever, cough, shortness of breath and new loss of taste and smell.
The county has made testing available for asymptomatic individuals in select groups, however, including essential workers, people older than 65 and those with chronic underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
County officials, however, said they would not yet expand testing to any asymptomatic person, such as what the city of Los Angeles has begun offering with their own test kits. County residents looking to be tested can still sign up through a single online portal at Covid19.lacounty.gov/testing.
The county will remain focused on its top priority when it comes to testing, meaning the most vulnerable populations, said Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s Health Services director. Ghaly also questioned the value of testing alone. While widespread testing is an asset to prevent outbreaks, she said, the most important tool is still physical distancing.
“I understand testing can provide individuals with a sense of security,” Ghaly said. “I want to caution everyone from holding on too tightly to that. Testing negative one day doesn’t mean you won’t be infected the next day or the next.”