Five more deaths due to coronavirus were reported Friday in Los Angeles County, raising the total to 26, and the county’s mortality rate from the illness rose above the levels seen across the country and in New York City, which has been particularly hard-hit by the virus.
Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health, said 257 more cases have been confirmed in the county, raising the total to 1,465. That figure, however, does not include 16 new cases reported Friday morning by the city of Long Beach, which maintains its own health department.
Long Beach had a total of 70 cases as of Friday morning. The city’s 16 new cases raised the overall Los Angeles County figure to 1,481.
Of the five deaths reported by Los Angeles County on Friday, all were over the age of 60 — four men and one woman, Ferrer said. On Thursday, the county reported nine deaths, eight of whom were also over age 60, and one in their 40s with underlying health conditions.
Ferrer noted that of the people who have tested positive for the virus in Los Angeles County, 1.8% have died. She said that is a higher mortality rate than the nation as a whole, and above that see in New York City, which has a rate of about 1.4%.
Ferrer also identified three “institutional settings” — such as nursing homes or long-term care facilities — where outbreaks have occurred. An outbreak is defined as three or more cases among patients or staff. The three locations with outbreaks are:
— The Kensington Redondo Beach;
— Belmont Village in Hollywood; and
— Alameda Care Center in Burbank.
Ferrer stressed “there have been no deficiencies identified at these facilities,” saying COVID-19 “knows no boundaries” and can be “imported and exported wherever there are people.” She said no deaths have been reported at any of the three facilities.
With the weekend approaching and county officials hoping to avoid a repeat of large crowds gathering at beaches and other public locations, the county issued an order closing all of its beaches and trails through at least April 19. Most of the county’s individual coastal cities have also closed off beaches, parking lots and pathways that provide access to the beach.
“I ask that you help us by not going to our beaches and not going to our hiking trails, at least for the next few weeks,” Ferrer said. ” … Many of our parks do remain open so there are opportunities for people to go outside and enjoy our beautiful county, but only if we practice social distancing.”
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger echoed the sentiment, saying, “We want you to keep enjoying the outdoor space, but please remember to use common sense.”
The county and state remain under stay-at-home orders that bar large public gatherings and mandate social distancing of at least six feet to avoid spread of the virus.
Ferrer noted again that the increasing number of cases is in part indicative of increased availability of testing, but she also stressed that the virus can still be easily spread if people fail to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
On Wednesday, the county’s health officer issued an order “that requires the self-isolation of any person that has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed by their physician or clinician to be positive for COVID-19,” Ferrer said.
The order also requires a 14-day quarantine for all close contacts of a confirmed or presumed COVID-19 patient, including household members and caregivers.
“So if you’ve been tested for COVID-19 and you’re waiting for your test results or you’ve been told by a provider that you should presume that you’re positive for COVID-19, we ask that you follow the directives to self- isolate. This means staying at home for at least seven days and until you’re fever- and symptom-free for 72 hours. Do not leave your home. Please do not leave your home unless its for a medical appointment,” Ferrer said.
“We ask that you notify all of your close contacts that you have COVID-19 or are likely to have COVID-19 so your close contacts can in fact begin their quarantine,” she said.
Health officials have insisted since the outbreak began that while older people, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women can suffer more severe consequences from contracting coronavirus, the threat of being diagnosed with the illness is spread across all age groups. And while younger patients may suffer lesser symptoms, they can still spread the illness to people who may become more severely ill.