As Los Angeles County passed the grim milestone of 20,000 cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, April 27, officials revealed that close to 2,000 healthcare workers in Los Angeles County have tested positive — a 26% increase since last week — and 11 have died.
Not surprisingly, nurses comprised the majority of the those front-line workers who fell victim to COVID-19, their employers evenly split between nursing homes and hospitals.
“To the families we very much mourn with you,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “Your loved ones dedicated themselves to helping others and in doing so they saved many lives. To all those on the front lines, we owe you are our deepest gratitude.”
The figures arrived as the county announced 26 additional deaths on Monday, bringing its death toll to 942 people.
The total caseload rose to 20,417 as officials announced another 900 cases of COVID-19, which continued to be the county’s biggest killer this month, surpassing heart disease.
It’s not certain if the numbers represent a leveling off in the data or if — like last weekend — the numbers are simply reflective of scaled-down Saturday and Sunday record-keeping. Last week, a similar weekend dip was followed by the county’s single deadliest week of the outbreak so far.
Nonetheless, officials hope to see evidence of flattening of the growth curve soon, which could indicate that this wave of the virus’ spread may have attained its peak. Coming on the heels of last week’s surge, this week’s numbers will be particularly closely watched, scrutinized and assessed.
At institutional settings, now accounting for 45% of the county’s deaths from COVID-19, health officials said they were investigating outbreaks at 19 more settings, up to 312 with at least one case. These include nursing homes, assisted living centers, treatment centers, correctional facilities and group homes.
Ferrer during her daily press briefing Monday repeated statements her previous admonitions that officials did not earlier understand that asymptomatic people could spread the virus. Part-time health care workers that served at various facilities, could have contributed to the spread, Ferrer said. She also for the first time included a direct apology.
“Early on in this pandemic we were all unaware that COVID-19 could be spread by people who did not have symptoms,” Ferrer said. “This has spread the virus. I apologize on behalf of all of us for not knowing enough at the start of this epidemic.”
Despite public health guidance, there was some indication, reported in the media at least since January, that the virus could be spread by asymptomatic carriers.
The county’s top public health director also addressed the racial and economic disparities showing that African Americans have an especially high mortality rate, 13.2 per 100,000 people, compared to other races and ethnicity. Whites, for example, have a mortality rate of 5.7 per 100,000 (including both infected and general population.)
“This data is deeply disturbing and speaks to the need for immediate action in communities with disproportionately high rates of death,” said Ferrer, adding that her department would increase access to testing, healthcare services and more accurate culturally appropriate information.
Monday’s total from the county, released at mid-day, did not include the latest cases and potential deaths out of Long Beach and Pasadena, which operate their own health departments. In its first update since Friday, Pasadena reported 63 new cases, bringing its total to 362 cases and five new deaths, bringing its total to 34. Long Beach added no new deaths to its total of 31, but added six new cases, bringing the city’s total to 582.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, during his noontime briefing on Monday, said the state could in a matter of weeks start to relax its stay at home orders. But images he saw over the weekend in Ventura and Orange counties displaying crowds of people at the beach ignoring social-distancing guidelines were discouraging.
“Those images are an example of what not to see and what not to do if we are going to extend the meaningful progress we’ve made,” Newsom said.
If the state continued on its current trajectory, Newsom said the state could be in good shape.
“The only thing that can stop that (a relaxing) is more images like we saw this weekend,” he said.
The economic turmoil, meanwhile, continued to add up with the state now having paid out $4.4 billion in unemployment benefits to 3.3 million recipients since March 15, Newsom said.
“We continue to see claims increase but the rate of growth is more modest,” Newsom said.
The same goes for new cases and deaths in the state. On Monday, the deaths of another 45 people were reported and there was a 1.4% rise in hospitalizations.
“When you’re so close and you’ve been making so much progress, let’s get this together so we can go so much further so much quicker,” Newsom said.
“The worst thing we can do is rest on our laurels and think the virus is taking a break and going on vacation,” Newsom added. “The only thing that changed was our behavior and that mitigated the spread and allowed us to build a foundation where we can begin to make modifications.”