The death toll rose in California this weekend as coronavirus cases spread and residents tried to adjust to extraordinary restrictions on their movement.
Los Angeles County health officials on Sunday confirmed one more coronavirus death, bringing the total number of deaths to five. They also reported 71 new cases in the county, with the total number now at 409. There were 132 new cases reported in last 48 hours.
The number of coronavirus deaths statewide stands at 35.
“It is critical that everyone practices social distancing, obey the Safer at Home Health Officer Order and assume that anyone can have COVID-19, and anyone could unintentionally infect others,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Public Health Director. “Please know that the actions you take today to stay 6 feet away from others and limit all non-essential activities outside your home are the best way for us to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”
The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, in California now stands at more than 1,500, with 30 deaths, but officials have said that the number of cases is a gross underestimation due to the lack of tests for the virus. Testing picked up this week, but healthcare authorities said they still don’t have anything close to a firm estimate of how many people are infected.
More than 25,200 tests had been conducted in California, by both commercial and private labs, the state Department of Public Health said Saturday. Results for more than 12,700 of them were pending.
A growing number of the cases in California are instances of community transmission, in which the person diagnosed had not recently traveled or been in contact with another confirmed case. Those cases indicate that the virus is spreading locally within communities.
Community transmission has been identified in California since late February, and since early March, most of the cases in the state have been unrelated to international travel, the state Public Health Department said Saturday. Therefore, the state will no longer collect information about travelers returning to California from countries with confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19, the Public Health Department said.
In Los Angeles County, the median age for the total number of those who have been infected is 47, Ferrer said. There are 138 people between the ages of 18 and 65 who have tested positive.
“The risk is spread across everyone,” she said.
On Saturday, a third Los Angeles police officer tested positive for the coronavirus. The officer, who had recently returned from a vacation out of the country, was “coughing and sweating” during roll call earlier this week in the Central Division, which patrols areas that include downtown L.A., sources told The Times.
At least 14 Los Angeles Police Department employees have shown symptoms and been tested for the virus, sources said. The other two who tested positive are a sergeant in the Pacific Division, who is hospitalized, and the other is a high-ranking command staffer, the sources said. The LAPD has now set up a plan for first-responder testing, they said.
On Saturday, Long Beach announced that it had recorded three more cases of the virus, for a total of 15.
New cases were also reported in Orange County, which rose from 65 to 95, and Riverside County, which rose from 22 to 45, with six deaths.
In Orange County, a resident of graduate student housing at UC Irvine tested positive for the coronavirus, the school said Saturday.
The person, who is not a student, had recently returned from an international trip and reported symptoms, Dr. Albert Chang, medical director of the UCI Student Health Center, said in a statement. The person is isolated and in good condition, and the risk of transmission to others on campus is low, the school said.
Big Bear Lake mayor Rick Herrick tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the first confirmed case in Big Bear Lake and the 10th in San Bernardino County, the city announced Saturday.
Herrick was tested on Thursday and received a positive result late Friday. He is doing well and expected to recover, the city said.
“This is not the announcement that I imagined, but I hope that by going public on what is normally a private, HIPAA-type subject can be a learning moment for our tight-knit community,” Herrick said in a statement.
He said that he became sick with relatively mild symptoms about a week ago and self-quarantined at his home. He will continue to conduct his mayoral duties from home, he said.
The mayor had limited contact with other city officials, and none are currently symptomatic, the release said. Any members of the public who had contact with the mayor before he self-quarantined can call the San Bernardino County Public Health Department for advice, officials said.
In San Jose, a reserve police officer who tested positive for coronavirus is now in an intensive care unit at a local hospital, while another 20 officers or reserves remain self-quarantined, according to a source. Eleven city firefighters have tested positive, and more than 50 are in self-quarantine.
Intensive care beds at L.A. County’s emergency-room hospitals are already at or near capacity, even as those facilities have doubled the number available for COVID-19 patients in recent days, according to newly released data.
Fewer than 200 ICU beds were available Wednesday, with most occupied by patients who don’t have the virus, according to the data, which cover the roughly 70 public and private hospitals in Los Angeles County that receive emergency patients.
County health officials have advised doctors to refrain from testing some patients unless a positive result could change how they would be treated.
The guidance, sent to doctors in a letter last week, was prompted by a crush of patients and shortage of test kits, and could make it difficult to ever know precisely how many people in the county contracted the virus.
The health department “is shifting from a strategy of case containment to slowing disease transmission and averting excess morbidity and mortality,” according to the letter. Doctors should test symptomatic patients only when “a diagnostic result will change clinical management or inform public health response.”
On Sunday, President Trump approved a request from Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a major disaster in California to help the state respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with “mass care,” emergency aid, unemployment assistance and disaster legal services, among others.
Newsom on Friday deployed the California National Guard to assist food banks statewide that are serving residents facing food shortages.
Newsom said the short-term deployment will initially assist a food bank warehouse in Sacramento County and will also assess the needs of other counties that have requested assistance with their programs.
The move came a day after he took the extraordinary action of telling most Californians so stay home.
The mandatory order allows residents to continue to visit grocery stores, pharmacies, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, takeout and delivery restaurants, banks, gas stations and laundromats. People may also leave their homes to care for a relative or a friend or seek healthcare services.
Newsom asked Californians to practice social distancing when performing such “necessary activities.”
“We’re going to keep the grocery stores open,” he said. “We’re going to make sure that you’re getting critical medical supplies. You can still take your kids outside, practicing common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog.”
On Saturday, after a day of confusion about the reach of Newsom’s historic executive order, the state announced that more stringent sets of mandatory restrictions implemented by some California counties and cities will remain in place.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he strongly supported the move by Newsom, as well as a similar directive by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and urged residents of the two hard-hit states to heed the new orders.
President Trump also praised Newsom and Cuomo, saying, “I applaud them” for “taking very bold steps” to limit activities in their states.
On Saturday, Trump said he is continuing to work with the two governors. “We coordinate very much with them,” he said.
Saturday will be a key test of the governor’s order.
On Friday, automobile traffic was “pandemic light.” Hiking trails, meanwhile, were filled with cabin-fever sufferers who stayed the requisite six feet apart and smiled a lot more than normal, grateful to be anywhere but home.
The city of El Segundo blocked off parking spots in front of local restaurants, where sit-down service is prohibited, and posted cheerful “Gundo to Go” signs. Masks and latex gloves were the garb of the day for those who ventured out.
At Los Angeles International Airport at 10:30 a.m. Friday, there were twice as many workers as there were travelers at the Air Canada counter in Terminal 6. The LAXit lot looked all but closed. The four zones where travelers wait for Uber and Lyft rides had a total of three cars at 11:15 a.m. There were 13 taxis. And the travelers? Forget about it.
At Griffith Park, dog walkers and exercisers were out in force Friday morning. People did lunges on the grass and push-ups on the picnic tables. A sign flashed “Observatory closed until further notice.”
Robert Dolan, a 64-year-old Los Feliz resident, said he’d been cooped up at home for nearly a week. But on Friday he decided to resume his regular speed-walking routine.
“I was feeling stuck in the house because of the coronavirus and all that,” he said. “Finally I said today I need to get out of here, because it’s driving me crazy.”
He sat on a stone ledge and watched a robin land on a tree. He listened to the flow of water near his feet.
“It’s better than it usually is,” he said, “because I’ve actually stopped and looked.”
Additional deaths were reported Friday across the state. Contra Costa County announced its first death related to the virus: a person in their 70s who had an underlying medical condition and had recently traveled to Europe. The patient died Thursday in an undisclosed hospital.
Riverside County reported its fourth death. Information about the victim wasn’t immediately available.
Santa Clara County announced two additional deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, bringing its total to eight.