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L.A. County sees ‘alarming’ rise in coronavirus hospitalizations, infection rates

Spectators watch the OneHB Parade, a modified parade in Huntington Beach that let residents watch from their neighborhoods.
Spectators watch the OneHB Parade, a modified parade in Huntington Beach that let many residents watch the procession from their neighborhoods, a change from the usual Fourth of July Parade on the city’s Main Street.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

In what officials have described as an “alarming” increase, hospitalizations of patients with confirmed coronavirus infections in Los Angeles County have jumped 41% in the last three weeks.

On Friday, there were 1,947 patients in L.A. County hospitals with confirmed coronavirus infections; seven days earlier, there were 1,717; the week before that, there were 1,426; and the week prior to that, there were 1,383.

The number of patients with confirmed coronavirus infections in intensive care units are up 35% in the last two weeks; on Friday, 549 people were in the ICU; last Friday there were 446, and the week before that there were 408.

On Monday, L.A. County officials warned about “alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and hospitalization” and projected the possibility of running out of hospital beds in two to three weeks; the number of ICU beds could be exhausted sometime in July.

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“If the trajectory continues, the number of ICU beds — our most limited resource — is likely to become inadequate in the near future,” said a memo issued Saturday by the L.A. County Department of Public Health to healthcare providers.

The county warned healthcare providers that officials are “concerned that acute care hospitals will need to begin implementing decompression plans and prepare for another wave of cases.”

The memo said that acute care hospitals in L.A. County were asked June 26 “to review their decompression plans and prepare for another wave of hospitalizations.”

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Statewide, hospitalizations continued their upward march; as of Saturday, California has broken daily records for the number of people hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infections for 14 consecutive days.

There has been a 64% increase in hospitalizations across California in the last two weeks; on Friday, the state reported 5,595 people hospitalized with confirmed coronavirus infections; a week earlier, there were 4,449; and the Friday before that, there were 3,412.

There was also a 48% jump in statewide patients in intensive care units with confirmed coronavirus infections in the last two weeks; there were 1,682 reported Friday, up from 1,133 two weeks earlier.

The rate at which coronavirus tests in California are coming back positive has jumped 52% over the last two weeks, according to data published on the Los Angeles Times’ California coronavirus tracker. An increasing rate of positive test results is an indication disease transmission is worsening.

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The beaches were closed and many fireworks shows were canceled, but Southern California still celebrated July 4.

The Times analysis on Saturday found that over the last seven days, about 7% of California’s coronavirus tests came back positive. A week earlier, that number was 5.9%; and a week before that, it was 4.6%.

The surge in coronavirus cases around the state has sparked alarm.

Officials had feared a Fourth of July weekend of crowded beaches, barbecues, parties and packed restaurants would cause a surge in new infections, further overwhelming already filling hospitals.

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California’s COVID-19 surge probably began around Memorial Day as people stuck inside for months decided to get back to old routines.

It can take three to four weeks after exposure to the virus for infected people to become sick enough to be hospitalized, and a Times analysis has found that new coronavirus hospitalizations in California began accelerating around June 15 at a rate not seen since early April.

But it appears that dire warnings as well as new restrictions had the intended effect, with Fourth of July crowds noticeably down at beaches, parks and other locations. Beaches were ordered shut down by local government officials in Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.


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