Los Angeles Coronavirus Update: County Health Officials Warn Of Looming Hospital Bed Shortage

COVID-19 continued to put pressure on the Los Angeles County hospital system today, with the number of patients continuing its upward march as the county confirmed a near-record 2,779 new cases. That lifted the countywide total to 103,850.

Public health officials warned Monday that the spiking numbers of coronavirus cases could cause the county to run out of hospital beds in the next two to three weeks, and out of intensive care unit beds potentially sooner.

Asked if this is a make-or-break week, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “We can’t sustain this rate of increase in positive cases. This train can be a runaway train if we don’t put the breaks on it. We have to get our heads back into this new normal.”

As of Tuesday, the county reported 1,783 people in hospitals due to the virus, continuing an upward trend that has seen the number jump by more than 400 over the past month.

The county also announced another 45 deaths, which was one of its highest numbers in the past week. The new deaths gave the county an overall total of 3,371.

As of Tuesday, about 9 percent of the more than 1.1 million people tested in the county have been positive for the virus. The short-term positivity rate has been increasing, raising further concerns in the county about spiking numbers and the possibility of an overwhelmed health system. The seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8 percent two weeks ago to 8.4 percent as of Monday. For reference, state guidelines will not allow a county to reopen with a 14-day positivity rate over 8 percent.

The rate of positive tests in California-at-large over the last 14 days is 5.6 percent. California’s hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased by 301 patients on Tuesday, a 6.3 percent jump. Thirty percent of all ICU beds in the state were occupied by coronavirus patients.

“In [sic] particular concern is the number of hospitalizations and the number of ICU beds,” said Governor Gavin Newsom after announcing those numbers.

The number COVID patients in ICU beds grew 4.3 percent overnight and saw a 37 percent increase over a two-week period.

The governor said the positivity rate of new tests was 4.4 percent two weeks ago. Now, over the past 7 days, it’s 5.9 percent.

L.A. County health officials on Monday said new statistics indicate that on average, one in every 140 people in Los Angeles County is infected with COVID- 19 and capable of spreading it to others, likely without having any symptoms or even knowing they are carrying the virus. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said that figure may actually be closer to one in 70. That’s a dramatic change from last week, when the estimate was one in every 400 people.

“What this means is that Angelenos in the activities of daily living when they go out are very likely to be in the locations or near persons who are currently infectious, and in fact a large typical store is likely to have multiple infectious persons enter the shop every day,” Dr. Roger Lewis, who leads the county’s statistical modeling efforts, said Monday.

Some pundits have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but county officials have said repeatedly in recent days that the metrics clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19.

Health officials said Friday that cases affecting younger people between 18 and 40 have jumped by 42 percent over the past two weeks, making that age group the driving factor in the increases. Interestingly, due to overall better health, that cohort is less likely to be hospitalized that people over 40, the age group that had previously made up the largest portion of cases.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered all bars closed in Los Angeles County, and he hinted Tuesday that more statewide restrictions could be on tap in an effort to prevent an explosion of virus cases over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. He also said he may announce stepped-up enforcement of the state’s requirement that people wear masks while in public.

Los Angeles County announced Monday that all of its beaches will be closed over the holiday weekend in hopes of preventing large gatherings. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who is embroiled in a continuing budget battle with the County Board of Supervisors, suggested Monday his agency might not enforce the beach closure order.

On Tuesday, Villanueva wrote on Twitter, “Enforcement efforts will be focused on vehicle & penal code violations, beach parking lot closures & street parking restrictions. (Sheriff’s) beach patrol will be patrolling the county beaches to ensure public safety.”

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