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L.A. County nears 5,000 COVID-19 deaths — half the state’s total

Los Angeles County's death toll accounts for nearly half of the state's 10,000.
(Eric Demarcq)

Six months after California lost its first victim to COVID-19, the state has recorded more than 10,000 deaths — with nearly half occurring in Los Angeles County.

Officials recorded 53 additional deaths in the county — bringing the total to 4,918 — and 3,116 new infections Friday, according to the public health department. L.A. County’s total case count now stands at more than 204,000. The high number of new cases is due in part to a backlog of test results received from one lab.

Officials caution that ongoing technical problems with the state’s electronic system used for gathering test results means that the county’s overall number of positive test cases is probably far higher, though it’s unclear to what extent.

“These metrics as a whole are what we used to guide our decision-making,” County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said during a news briefing Thursday. “At the moment I don’t have clear expectations or understanding of what the state is finding in terms of their investigation.”

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Such data are integral for projections related to transmission rates, which indicate how many people could contract the virus from one infected person, and hospital supply and demand.

The technical issues related to the state’s electronic system for collecting test results affected the state’s data from July 25 to Aug. 4.

California Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly said Friday that a server outage prevented 250,000 to 300,000 records from entering the state’s reporting system. It’s unclear how many of those records are COVID-related, as the system includes lab results for multiple illnesses.

Ghaly said he did not think the problem would change the overall trend in case counts that the state has previously reported. But it’s unclear how many counties were affected or whether the cases are scattered throughout the state or limited to a few areas.

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Officials from the state and county have reported a recent plateau in hospitalizations. As of Thursday, 1,741 L.A. County residents with confirmed cases of the virus were hospitalized; 29% were in intensive care. The number of hospitalized patients was roughly 2,200 in mid-July.

The plateau follows new shutdown orders from the state and comes after back-to-back records for single-day fatalities.

Younger people now account for the majority of cases in the county, with those between the ages of 30 and 49 accounting for the highest number of infections among any age group and 25% of hospitalized patients. And those between 18 and 29 now account for more than twice the proportion of all hospitalizations than they did in April.

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“These patients now match the hospitalization rate of people aged 80 years old or older,” the county said. “By comparison, hospitalizations of those 80 years old or older have fallen by half since a peak in April.”

Officials have continued to stress the need for people to remain socially distant and avoid gatherings and have instructed businesses to maintain safety protocols from the county. The public health department has received more than 20,100 complaints about businesses since March and has shut down 27 restaurants and 27 other businesses, including seven gyms, for violating the orders.


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