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L.A. County reports 24 new coronavirus-related deaths

The coronavirus outbreak has changed shoppers as well as vendors at the Santa Monica Farmers Market.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County reported 24 deaths related to COVID-19 and 334 cases of the coronavirus Sunday, marking its lowest single-day increase in fatalities in over a week.

“Though there are promising signs that our collective efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are working, we are sad to report today that more Angelenos have lost their lives to COVID-19, and their loved ones are in our hearts as they mourn,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said in a statement.

Of the people who died, 16 were over the age of 65, four were 41-65 and three were 18-40. Twenty-three had underlying health conditions, officials said.

Long Beach also reported an additional death and eight new cases of the virus Sunday, bringing the county’s total to 12,349 cases of the coronavirus and 601 related deaths.

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Statewide, California has recorded nearly 31,000 cases of the virus and over 1,100 COVID-19 deaths.

A total of 3,196 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 1,163 were in intensive care units, as of Saturday, officials said Sunday. Both of those numbers declined slightly from the day before, when 3,221 people were hospitalized and 1,173 were in ICUs.

Coronavirus cases in California topped 30,000, with nearly 1,150 deaths, as officials said science would determine when they lifted restrictions.

“Despite the high number of total deaths and the continued increase in new cases, there is evidence that our physical distancing efforts are working,” Ferrer said.

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She said that the county’s testing capacity also continues to increase. More than 79,000 residents had been tested and had received their results as of Sunday, with about 15% testing positive, Ferrer said.

New testing sites will open Monday in Bell, at Beverly Community Hospital in Montebello, and at PIH Health Good Samaritan Hospital in MacArthur Park, county Supervisor Hilda Solis said. A drive-up testing site at PIH Health Whittier Hospital also will open Monday, county officials announced.

Officials have said in the past that the number of reported cases tends to dip lower on weekends and Mondays due to more limited testing.

Still, L.A. County announced 81 new deaths on Saturday, setting a record for single-day fatalities.

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Deaths have increased significantly in the last week in Los Angeles County, even as there are growing signs that the number of new coronavirus cases across California is beginning to level off and decline in some places. The county already accounts for a disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths in the state.

Los Angeles has recorded far fewer deaths than New York, but officials said the recent rise in fatalities is troubling.

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Ferrer said Friday that there is a natural lag time when it comes to deaths, as people tend to be sick or hospitalized for a while before passing away.

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“You tend to see the deaths continue to rise after your cases may have leveled off,” she said.

She also said that outbreaks at institutional settings, where people tend to be more medically vulnerable and live in close quarters, have pushed the death toll higher.

Residents of skilled nursing facilities and assisted living homes represented about 36% of all COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County, as of Friday, she said.

Other sources of concern include the virus spreading among homeless people and within correctional facilities.

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An inmate at San Pedro’s Federal Correctional Institution Terminal Island died from COVID-19 on Sunday, marking the second fatality there within a week.

Micahel Fleming, 59, tested positive for the coronavirus on April 8 in the prison’s infirmary, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said in a news release. He was taken to a hospital for further treatment last Saturday. On Monday, he was placed on a ventilator, and on Sunday, hospital staff pronounced him dead, the release said.

Fleming had been in custody since Jan. 31, 2017. He was sentenced in Wyoming to 240 months on drug-related offenses.

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On Monday, another inmate, Bradley James Ghilarducci, 73, died in a hospital after suffering weakness and fainting spells, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons said. Test results received Wednesday confirmed he had contracted the coronavirus.

As of Sunday, a total of 33 inmates and two staff members at FCI Terminal Island had tested positive for the virus, officials said.

The outbreak is the second-largest at a federal prison in California. Lompoc prison had reported 54 cases among inmates, including one who died, and 27 among staff, as of Sunday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Other counties also reported modest increases in coronavirus cases on Sunday.

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Orange County reported 80 additional cases of the virus for a total of 1,636, including 32 deaths. A total of 144 people were hospitalized, including 56 in intensive care units.

Riverside County recorded three additional deaths and 36 new cases for a total of 2,638 cases and 75 deaths. Of those, 223 people were hospitalized, with 71 in ICUs.

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Elsewhere, in Ventura County, officials announced that the spread of the virus had slowed sufficiently to begin relaxing some portions of the county’s stay-at-home order. The county reported six new coronavirus cases Sunday, for a total of 422 cases and 13 deaths. Thirty people were hospitalized, including nine in intensive care units.

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The county on Saturday modified its stay-at-home order to permit some businesses to reopen and some gatherings to take place for the first time since the restrictions were issued to fight the spread of the coronavirus. Gatherings were limited to five people or less, and business were required to have no more than 10 employees at a time and to refrain from serving the public.

County-run parks and beaches also were reopened over the weekend, though some cities have chosen to keep recreation areas closed until at least Monday.

Strict stay-at-home orders and recreational closures remain in place in the majority of Southern California, in some cases drawing the ire of conservative groups, which have organized scattered protests.

Demonstrations against the orders were staged in Huntington Beach on Friday and in downtown San Diego on Saturday and in San Clemente and Encinitas on Sunday.


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