California passes 9,000 coronavirus-related deaths after 2 days of record-setting fatalities
California has passed another coronavirus milestone: 9,000 deaths after a major surge in infections.
The rising death toll comes as officials are trying to slow outbreaks across the state that followed the reopening of the economy in late May and early June.
As of Thursday evening, California had recorded at least 9,016 deaths and 493,140 cases. Los Angeles County now has a cumulative COVID-19 death toll of at least 4,559 and at least 186,036 confirmed cases.
The Golden State set single-day records twice this week for the number of coronavirus-related deaths. On consecutive days, California broke its daily record, with 174 deaths on Tuesday and 189 deaths on Wednesday. L.A. County confirmed a single-day record of 91 deaths Wednesday, attributing the high number to a backlog in data reporting from July 23 to Sunday.
L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis stressed the need for businesses to comply with the county’s health orders during a news briefing Thursday afternoon. That includes reporting any outbreak of three or more cases of the virus to the county and alerting all workers who may have been exposed to a person with a known case, he said.
“Businesses have a corporate and moral responsibility to their employees,” Davis said.
Around 40 individuals on USC’s fraternity-filled 28th Street have contracted the virus. Both UCLA and USC have reported over 150 positive cases.
The county is currently investigating the deaths of two former employees at Mission Foods Corp. in Commerce. Mission Foods was one of three food businesses that the county shut down this week after more than 40 employees tested positive. All three businesses have since reopened. Davis said the two Mission employees were believed to have had COVID-19 at the time of their deaths.
None of the businesses that were closed this week contacted the county about the initial cases, Davis said. Instead, officials were alerted via anonymous complaints.
The Department of Public Health is currently investigating more than 1,000 outbreaks of the virus and is receiving 2,000 to 3,000 weekly complaints about businesses. Davis encouraged residents to come forward with information about businesses that may be in violation of the health order.
“I encourage all members of the public to report suspected outbreaks,” Davis said. “Actions of individual businesses and communities have an effect on each and every one of us.”
The health officer also implored places of worship to host only outdoor services and refrain from holding any indoor events — instructions mandated in the county’s health order that went into effect in mid-July. In late May, the state and county allowed for mass gatherings of religious worship and political protest. In the time since, indoor gatherings have been prohibited throughout the county and much of the state as the spread of the virus poses a greater threat inside close quarters.
Officials in L.A. County reiterated Wednesday that it is essential the public follows social distancing rules and wears masks in public to slow the spread.
“I know we’re all eager and anxious to see our lives return to normal,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “We do have the tools at hand to make this a reality in the future. But we need compliance with our directives.”
Health officials say the public’s more careful social behavior, along with newly reissued restrictions on public life, has led to a recent decline in some numbers, including hospitalizations, the seven-day average for positive infections, and the projected transmission rate. But more cases and deaths continue to be reported each day.
“When we let our guard down, the virus spreads,” county Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.
In the San Joaquin Valley, an eight-county region of the Central Valley stretching from Stockton to Bakersfield, pandemic conditions have deteriorated dramatically. In the weeklong period that ended Memorial Day, 42 residents there died of COVID-19; in the seven-day period that ended Monday, 105 residents had died.
Deaths also are on the upswing in the seven-county Sacramento region. Over the same time period, weekly deaths rose from four to 25.
The nine-county San Francisco Bay Area has seen its weekly death toll nearly triple in the same time period — from 20 to 57; San Diego County’s weekly death toll almost doubled over the same time period, from 28 to 55.
The five-county Southern California area — L.A., Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties — has seen weekly deaths increase from 357 to 493 in that same time period, an increase of 38%.
There are some signs that California’s most recent surge — while still growing — has started to slow down. For the week that ended Tuesday, the state recorded an average of 9,157 new confirmed cases daily, a 2% increase from the previous week. That’s a much slower increase than what happened in the week that ended July 14, when the daily average of new cases was 8,902, a 20% jump from the previous week.
In addition, the rate at which coronavirus tests are coming back positive has been stable in recent weeks statewide. A Times analysis found that California’s seven-day coronavirus positive test rate has generally stayed between 7% and 8% since July 5. Also, the effective transmission rate of the coronavirus statewide is estimated to be 1.02 — meaning every infected person, on average, transmits the virus to 1.02 other people.
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