L.A. County will visit hundreds of senior living centers to assess coronavirus risk

Barbara Ferrer
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, gives her daily update Tuesday.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday will begin visiting about 300 assisted care facilities in the county to assess their needs for keeping the residences safe from the coronavirus.

The move, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, comes amid growing alarm about the toll coronavirus is taking on the elderly, who account for the vast majority of the deaths in the United States.

California officials have been urging that group to avoid large public gatherings, travel and events. The Santa Clara city library is canceling all programs for the upcoming week, and most programs at the senior center. San Jose’s senior meals program will transition to a boxed to-go pickup format.


On Sunday, federal officials reiterated that message.

“If you are an elderly person with an underlying condition, if you get infected, the risk of getting into trouble is considerable. So it’s our responsibility to protect the vulnerable,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on NBC’s Meet the Press. “When I say protect, I mean right now. Not wait until things get worse. Say no large crowds, no long trips. And above all, don’t get on a cruise ship.”

Those at higher risk include people over 70 with underlying conditions such as diabetes, obesity, asthma, heart, lung or kidney diseaseand weakened immune systems. If someone in one of these categories does get sick, early diagnosis is important to allow more time to treat the patient, which may include putting a patient on oxygen or, when necessary, a ventilator to help them breathe if their lungs begin to fail.

On Monday, Los Angeles County reported the first instance of the virus spreading in the community. A new case was reported Tuesday — the county’s 20th — by health officials who said a traveler returning from Iran tested positive after flying into Los Angeles International Airport.