Los Angeles County reports first coronavirus death: Here’s what you need to know

LAPD Lt. Jay Hom assembles coronavirus field safety kits for officers.
LAPD Lt. Jay Hom assembles coronavirus field safety kits for officers: an N95 mask, work gloves and nitrile gloves.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County reached a milestone Wednesday in its battle against the coronavirus, announcing the first death in Southern California linked to the illness.

The death of the woman, who was in her 60s and had underlying health issues, came as the number of coronavirus cases reported by the L.A. County Department of Public Health jumped to 28. Four of those cases were reported in Long Beach, and officials are saying many more across the state likely have the virus.

Here is what we know:

L.A. County fatality

Public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer did not identify where in Los Angeles County the death occurred.


The woman who died was not a county resident but had been visiting after extensive travel over the past month, including a long layover in South Korea, which has been a hotbed for the virus.

“Shortly after being hospitalized, she unfortunately passed,” Ferrer said.

Virus spreading

Ferrer said additional cases, and deaths, are likely — and the spread may eventually require more stringent social-distancing measures.

More than two dozen cases have been spread across the county, though no specific locations were provided.

“At this point, these cases were scattered throughout the entire county. There is no supervisorial district that does not have a positive case,” she said, and that does not include cases that have yet to be diagnosed. “We at this point say to everybody you need to be aware, you need to expect that there’s going to be transmission if you’re here in L.A. County, and you need to take the steps you can to protect yourself and the people you love.”

New cases

There are now 28 confirmed cases in L.A. County. They include:

• Three individuals who were household contacts of an L.A. County resident previously confirmed to have the virus.

• One individual who had traveled to France and returned home ill.

• One individual who traveled to a religious conference in a different state and was a close contact of someone at the conference who later tested positive.


New restrictions?

Los Angeles County has been less aggressive than San Francisco and Santa Clara County, which has prohibited large public events including professional sports.

L.A. officials said they were now considering that.

The county has developed a risk-assessment tool that considers how many community transmissions there have been and whether new cases are accelerating, Ferrer said.

“We’re trying to use that to drive our judgments about when things need to close,” Ferrer said. “We will get to a point, unfortunately, here in L.A. County, where we will be asking for events to close. But we’re not there yet.”

Ferrer stressed the public’s need to be cautious in large gatherings and suggested that people assess themselves whether they should venture into crowded areas. Those who are pregnant, elderly or have underlying health issues are especially vulnerable to developing serious effects from the virus.