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California

L.A. County reports 18 new coronavirus-related deaths, says poor people are three times more likely to die

L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer
L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer addresses a news conference last month on the steps of Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials on Sunday reported 18 additional COVID-19 deaths and 440 new cases of the coronavirus. Long Beach, which has its own health department, reported two new deaths and 10 additional cases, bringing the county’s total to 915 deaths and 19,538 cases.

“The most difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic is losing people to the virus,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, said in a statement. “To all of you who have lost loved ones, we are deeply sorry.”

Of those who most recently died, 13 were older than 65, four were 41 to 65, and one was 18 to 40, officials said. Fifteen had underlying health conditions.

Overall, black people continue to see the highest COVID-19 death rate in L.A. County, with 13 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 9.5 for Latino people, 7.5 for Asian people and 5.5 for white people, public health officials said in a news release.

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Officials also revealed that those who live in lower-income communities in L.A. County are three times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those in wealthier communities. Neighborhoods where 30% to 100% of residents live in poverty have seen about 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.3 deaths per 100,000 people in communities where less than 10% of residents live in poverty, they said.

“As we have more information about who is dying, we are reminded that the work ahead requires that we address issues of disproportionately that result in higher rates of death among African Americans, Latinx and Asians as well as residents living in poverty,” Ferrer said. “Ensuring access to testing, early treatment and care, and economic support among those communities at higher risk of devastating outcomes associated with COVID-19, is essential.”

As of Sunday, more than 117,000 people had been tested and received their results, with about 14% testing positive, she said.

Officials have said that the number of new cases reported on weekends tends to be lower due to more limited test results being returned.

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After appearing to level off for a time, the number of new coronavirus cases recorded by L.A. County has surged over the past week, and deaths have doubled.

Officials remain especially concerned about residents of institutional facilities, who tend to have underlying health conditions and live in environments where the virus can spread more easily.

A total of 365 residents who lived in institutional settings had died from COVID-19 as of Friday, with the majority of them nursing home residents, Ferrer said. They account for 43% of the deaths in L.A. County.

In a bid to slow the virus’ spread among vulnerable populations, the county’s health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, on Friday issued an order requiring that all licensed group healthcare facilities limit entry to workers and residents and suspend communal dining and activities. Both residents and staff at the facilities will be required to wear face coverings.

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Institutions now are required to conduct testing for all residents and staff, whether symptomatic or not, a process that will begin Monday, Ferrer said.

Medical teams from the California National Guard also have been dispatched to five skilled nursing facilities in L.A. County to assist with staffing shortages due to coronavirus outbreaks, and officials are in talks to deploy four more teams.


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