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LA County’s daily coronavirus toll dips after deadly weekend; health officials scrutinize nursing homes

The deaths of another 17 people from complications related to the novel coronavirus were reported in Los Angeles County on Monday, among the county’s lowest daily death toll since April 5 when 15 new deaths were announced.

The deaths of another 17 people from complications related to the novel coronavirus were reported in Los Angeles County on Monday, April 20, among the county’s lowest daily death tallies since the pandemic erupted.

The toll was a relief after a particularly grim weekend, when the deaths of more than 100 people were reported.

The number of people currently hospitalized rose to 1,709 with 30% in intensive care units and 17% requiring ventilators. Roughly 25% of people who tested positive have required hospitalization at some point during their illness.

Roughly 39% of deaths in LA County have occurred at skilled nursing facilities, an area in which Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged Monday the county was seeking help from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in addition to state health teams to assist with staffing.

“We’re working hard with nursing home providers to increase the number of sites treating COVID-19 patients,” Ferrer said. “We’re going to continue to work hard.”

The county is now investigating 265 institutional settings with at least one confirmed case, an increase of 37 additional investigations since last Friday, Ferrer said. The vast majority of the cases are at nursing homes and assisted living facilities though others are at treatment centers and other settings. A total of 1,580 residents and 1,153 staff members have tested positive and there have been 241 deaths so far, almost entirely at skilled nursing facilities.

“As we’ve seen across the country, it’s very difficult in a nursing home to contain an outbreak,” Ferrer said. “Part of that is the relationship people have at a nursing home. Many work at multiple settings because they are often not paid well. Now we know that people can shed the virus even without symptoms.”

Among the 17 deaths reported Monday in LA County, 13 were over the age of 65, all but two of whom had underlying health conditions. Two people were between 41 and 65, one of whom had underlying health problems. One person was between 18 and 40 without pre-existing conditions.

The LA County report, released at mid-day, did not include updated numbers from Long Beach and Pasadena, which operate their own health departments. Long Beach reported seven new cases, bring the city’s total to 464, and two more deaths, for a total of 24. Pasadena reported 34 new cases, for a total of 249, and five more deaths, for a total of 25.

The count was the lowest daily death tally since 15 deaths were announced on April 5.

A total of 617 people have now died in LA County from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Roughly 89% of those individuals had underlying health conditions.

“This reminds us that we need to do everything possible so these people (with underlying health conditions) can stay safe at home,” Ferrer said. “We know that these numbers represent lives lost and family and friends experiencing profound grief.”

Due to a backlog of tests reported by the public health department, the county reported 1,491 new confirmed cases on Monday. Nearly 300 were from the county’s testing centers and the rest came from a private lab. More than 87,000 people have now been tested in the county.

“This demonstrates that we’re both having an increase in the number of cases and in expanding testing we need to make sure that our labs can easily report to us,” Ferrer said.

There were now more than 13,016 confirmed cases on Monday as USC researchers announced the results of an antibody study showing that the number of people who have been infected could be much higher and therefore the mortality rate much lower.

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