L.A. County reports 1,568 new coronavirus cases, 58 deaths
Los Angeles County public health officials on Saturday reported 1,568 new COVID-19 cases and 58 related deaths, marking the fifth day in a row the county reported more than 1,200 new cases.
New cases have also been on the rise statewide, with California recording its highest one-day total on Thursday and then again on Friday. L.A. County remains the site of more than half of the 5,000-plus deaths recorded by the state and nearly half of its 149,000 cases.
Some officials attribute the increase to stepped-up testing, which may have enabled healthcare providers to identify infections in people who aren’t seriously ill.
“The state did ask us to take a hard look at the fact that our case counts are high,” Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County health director, said Friday. “But we’ve been working with them, and we’ve shown them our data that indicates that’s really, at this point, a result of a lot of testing.”
Other metrics offer a clearer picture of how L.A. County and the rest of the state are faring in the fight against the coronavirus, some officials say. Those indicators include the overall percentage of people who have tested positive and the daily number of hospitalizations and intensive care cases.
“I think it’s natural, that it’s easy to just focus on the number of new cases,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said Friday. “But I think that’s really anchored — if you’re not seeing a tremendous uptick in the number of hospitalizations in the right timeline or … ICU cases, that’s really connected, at least in California’s case, to an increase in testing.”
L.A. County on Saturday reported a slight increase in the rate of people testing positive for COVID-19, which rose to 9% after holding at 8% since late May. Still, the positivity rate remained lower than it was in late April, when fewer tests were being performed, and 14% of people tested positive.
Ferrer said Friday that such an increase shouldn’t come as a surprise, as stay-at-home orders continue to be relaxed and more businesses reopen.
“Should we see an increase in positivity rates, which we’re likely to do — that’s entirely possible given all of the reopenings that are happening and the ability for people to actually mingle more with each other in workplaces and in other places — if we see that increase, we’re going to be needing to watch that very carefully, and particularly to watch how it affects what’s going on in our hospital care system,” she said.
Coronavirus-related hospitalizations have continued to decline slightly in L.A., but the pace has slowed since last month. As of Saturday, there were 1,397 confirmed COVID-19 patients in county hospitals, with 30% of them in intensive care and 21% on ventilators.
The most recent three-day average of the daily number of hospitalized patients represented a decrease of about 3%, according to the Public Health Department’s dashboard of reopening metrics. In late May, the decrease was hovering at 15% to 16%.
One reason for the slowing of the decline could be that most hospitals are now testing all patients who are admitted, even for elective surgery, Ferrer said Friday. That is true throughout the state, Ghaly said.
California’s health secretary announced a new round of reopenings and said increasing daily case counts are probably due to ramped-up testing.
“Because we know there [are] ... people without any symptoms who can test positive, we would imagine that as the hospitals continue with this more routine testing of everybody that’s going to be residing in their hospital, that they too will pick up more cases of COVID-19,” Ferrer said.
Capacity in intensive care units and ventilator supplies remain relatively stable, officials said.
Outbreaks in institutional settings continue to be a driver of L.A. County’s high numbers and are responsible for about 23% of the county’s COVID-19 cases and more than half of the county’s deaths, officials said Friday. A total of 1,502 people living in such settings have died, about 89% of them residents of skilled nursing facilities, Ferrer said. Deaths also took place among residents of assisted living and correctional facilities, she said.
That continued increase in new cases came a day after more businesses were permitted to reopen in L.A. County, including gyms, day camps, museums, zoos, campgrounds and hotels for leisure travel. Music, film and television production also was permitted to resume. The businesses are required to follow protocols, and employees and visitors must wear face coverings.
The state also announced Friday that counties would be permitted to allow more businesses to reopen in a week. Those include nail salons, massage studios and tattoo parlors.
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