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LA County tops 1,000 coronavirus deaths, vows to strengthen nursing-home protections

Another 597 cases were confirmed, raising to total to nearly 21,000 cases

As officials announced that Los Angeles County had reached the heartbreaking milestone of 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths, the Board of Supervisors vowed on Tuesday, April 28, to strengthen protections at the region’s nursing homes — where nearly half of those fatalities are linked.

Health officials reported another 59 deaths related to COVID-19 and 597 more confirmed cases, bring the county’s total to 20,976.

“Please know that if you are grieving the loss of loved ones who have died from COVID-19, our thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, and your friends,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “We wish you healing and peace.”

Faced with a growing number of outbreaks at institutional settings — now up to 4,488 cases at 333 facilities — Ferrer said in a press release Tuesday that the county needed to accelerate the ability to quickly identify and isolate asymptomatic as well as symptomatic residents and staff, and quarantine their close contacts.

A total of 462 people have died at institutional settings, mostly at nursing homes, but also at assisted living facilities, treatment centers, correctional institutions and group homes, the county’s numbers show.

“With over 400 deaths from COVID-19 occurring among nursing home residents, the pandemic has amplified the cracks in our society, including the care and protection of people who are older and medically fragile,” Ferrer said.

See how LA County compares to other Southern California counties

In recent days, LA County officials said they were partnering with representatives from the state and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help suppress outbreaks at nursing homes. Last week it was announce the National Guard would also help at certain facilities. Tuesday’s numbers did not include the latest totals reported in Long Beach and Pasadena, which operates their own health departments.

The LA County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Among the provisions, the county committed to the following:

  • Facilitate expeditious testing for all staff and residents
  • Issue standard protocols for skilled nursing homes
  • Require adequate staffing levels and sufficient personal protective equipment
  • Ban retaliation against staff for working  at multiple facilities, for advocating for PPEs and refusing to go to work
  • Expedite pending licenses for certified nursing assistants
  • Provide staff with additional pay, including over as well as paid sick leave
  • Pay facilities an enhanced rate if they care for residents who have tested positive for COVID-19
  • And require skilled nursing homes to readmit patients once they are no longer sick.

“We cannot underestimate the risk that COVID-19 poses to skilled nursing home residents, given their age, physical condition and health status,” Ridley-Thomas said. “We must also take comprehensive precautions to protect the heroic caregivers who work in these settings and then go home to their families.”

Ferrer said the Department of Public Health supported the county’s goals.

“We share Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ concern for this vulnerable population, which is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Ferrer said.

“We appreciate the board’s efforts to put measures in place ensuring that essential staff at skilled nursing facilities are properly trained and equipped with the protective equipment they need to remain safe, and support residents who are in great need of continued care,” Ferrer added.

The mid-day county report did not include updated counts for Pasadena and Long Beach, which each operates its own health department.

Long Beach officials reported another two deaths, raising the city’s death toll to 33. Long Beach also reported 20 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases identified in the city to 602.

Pasadena reported 21 new cases (383 total) and two additional deaths (36 total). All of Pasadena’s fatal coronavirus cases involved someone who lived or worked at an elder care facility, until Monday when city officials reported the deaths of two residents who weren’t residents or employees at a long-term care facility.

Roughly 92% of those who have died from COVID-19 in LA County had underlying health conditions.

Among the countywide deaths reported Tuesday, 36 people were over the age of 65, 16 were between the ages of 41 to 65, and one person who died was between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. Forty-two people had underlying health conditions including 28 people over the age of 65 years old, 13 between the ages of 41 to 65 years old, and one person between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. Two deaths were reported by the City of Long Beach and four deaths by the City of Pasadena.

Out of all those who have died so far, information about race and ethnicity is available for 98% of cases. While the county has been reporting the prevalence of the virus by race and ethnicity, officials promised a more comprehensive report soon. Approximately 37% of deaths occurred among Latino residents, 29% among Whites, 18% among Asians, 14% among African Americans, 1% among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders and 1% among residents identifying with other races.

African Americans, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and people living in communities with high levels of poverty continued to have the highest rate of death per 100,000 people for COVID-19 when compared to other groups.

As of Tuesday, 21% people who tested positive for COVID-19 have been hospitalized at some point during their illness. Testing capacity continues to increase in LA County, with testing results available for over 133,000 individuals and 14% of people testing positive.

To see LA County’s interactive dashboard of coronavirus cases click here.

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