L.A. County emerges as a coronavirus center in California as deaths, cases jump

Padlocks seal a gate for the Victory Trailhead at the Upper Las Virgenes Open Space Preserve in Woodland Hills.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The death toll from the coronavirus jumped again Thursday to 78 in Los Angeles County as officials warned residents “many weeks of work” were ahead before the region might see signs that the spread was slowing.

Although cases are rising across the state, Los Angeles County — the state’s most populous — has seen a large number of fatalities and new cases. Officials acknowledged the psychological toll of the losses but said it’s essential people keep following social distancing rules and health guidelines.

“Please don’t lose hope, and please don’t stop following all of the directives that you are following right now to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.


The county confirmed 13 new coronavirus-related deaths Thursday, bringing the toll to 78. Twelve of the victims were older than 65, and all but one of them had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. The other person who died was between ages 41 and 65 and also had underlying health conditions, she said.

Los Angeles County officials also announced 534 new COVID-19 cases. Long Beach, which has its own health department, announced 14 new cases, bringing the city’s total to 153. There were 49 confirmed cases in Pasadena, which also has its own health department. There were more than 4,000 confirmed cases overall in L.A. County as of Thursday night. The daily count increased by more than 1,000 in 48 hours.

These are some of the unusual new scenes across the Southland during the coronavirus outbreak.

May 6, 2020

“The psychological impact of rising case counts and deaths is real, both individually and collectively, and I urge everyone to take care of their emotional health and to check in frequently with those in your extended communities,” Ferrer said. “This will be a long haul, and we have many weeks of work ahead before we begin to see the benefits of our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

While the L.A. County death toll keeps rising, it’s still a faction of the number in New York City, which has recorded more than 1,500 deaths.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its march across California, the number of cases in the state swelled to more than 11,000 on Thursday — with the death toll topping 240. Of those cases, 40% have occurred in L.A. County.


In the early days of the coronavirus in California, the focus was in Santa Clara County, where an outbreak lead to a series of deaths that prompted the beginning of unprecedented social distancing measures. Deaths continue to rise there, and the county’s population of two million is significantly smaller than Los Angeles, which has a population of about 10 million. New York City’s population is 8.6 million.

The drivers of Santa Clara County’s economy — tech companies, foreign travel and close human interaction — made it a ripe target for the coronavirus.

March 25, 2020

Here is how other counties compare:

Santa Clara 36 deaths; 1,019 cases
San Diego 16 deaths; 966 cases
Orange 13 deaths; 656 cases
Riverside 14 deaths; 493 cases
San Mateo 10 deaths 453 cases
San Francisco 7 deaths; 450 cases
Alameda 9 deaths; 396 cases
Sacramento 9 deaths; 341 cases
San Bernardino 8 deaths; 304 cases

Amid the surge, officials are continuing to urge the public to carry on with unprecedented social distancing measures while also rushing to get more supplies to hospitals amid a rise in patients.

The rapid spread of the virus brought new concerns about whether the state’s healthcare system can handle the inflow of patients. Many California hospitals and local medical centers are grappling with shortages of supplies amid a scramble to prepare for what is expected to be a deluge of patients in the coming weeks.

Although the number of infections continues to swell statewide, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he believes the state’s social distancing efforts have made a difference.

“The ICU numbers and the hospital numbers, while they’re growing, are not growing as significantly as you’re seeing in other parts of the country,” he said Thursday. “We’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination.”

Newsom said 816 patients are in intensive care and 1,922 have been hospitalized from COVID-19 in California as of Thursday.


The governor also announced that Californians won’t have their water turned off because of unpaid bills during the coronavirus crisis, and those who already had it turned off since March 4, when the statewide coronavirus emergency went into effect, will have their service restored.

Newsom’s directive comes in response to calls from environmental justice organizations for assistance to low-income residents facing mounting financial pressures.

“People are under enormous pressure economically and the last thing they need to worry about now is not having access to water,” said Steve Fleischli, senior director of water initiatives at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Santa Barbara County recorded its first death from the virus Wednesday. The person was in their 60s and had underlying health conditions, public health officials said.

Orange County saw its biggest single-day increase in coronavirus infections Wednesday, as officials announced 107 new cases and three additional deaths. On Thursday, officials added 56 cases to the list and three deaths, bringing the county’s death toll to 13.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Terrell Young died of complications from the coronavirus, the department said Thursday. He had served in the department for 15 years and was its first member to succumb to the virus.


Fry reported from Los Angeles, Myers and St. John from Northern California.