After two record days in the number of new COVID-19 cases were recorded last week, County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer revealed a number on Wednesday that far eclipsed those, reporting 2,126. That included 600 delayed cases from one testing lab.
By comparison, there were 1633 new cases in the county as of Friday, according to the health department. That was the third-highest one day total since the outbreak began, according the L.A. county coronavirus dashboard. Ferrer said that Friday’s number included 500 delayed cases from one lab.
On Thursday, the Department of Public Health reported 1,857 new confirmed coronavirus cases. Before today’s numbers were released, it was the largest single-day number of new cases announced by the county during the pandemic. But health officials said, again, roughly 600 of those cases were the result of a backlog in the reporting of test results. Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments, combined to confirm an additional 84 cases. That gave the county 1,941 new confirmed cases total on Thursday.
Lab delays have occurred nearly every week during the pandemic. Adding delayed numbers into the daily total has been commonplace for the county health department which means that, while not all days include delayed numbers, enough of them do for record highs to seem significant.
The spiking number of new cases come on the same day that New York City and New York State reported their lowest number of new cases since mid-March.
As for L.A., it’s been about 3 weeks after the region’s stay-at-home order was modified, and after recent large gatherings at protests, which also occurred in New York.
Usually, increased testing — which is good — is to blame for a higher case rate. The county’s testing chart, however, showed a decline in testing in the past week, which would dampen the theory that increased testing is responsible for the rise in new cases. The positivity rate is about as low as it’s been in the past month, at 8 percent.
Regarding a complaint about testing availability, Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of Health Services for L.A. County indicated that testing appointments were being “reallocated” into buckets for those who show symptoms, those who don’t, those who’ve been exposed, etc. Some of those categories may run out of availability sooner than others.
Ferrer emphasized that the number of new cases reported daily, while important, is a difficult number to follow. It includes everyone from those who test positive with no symptoms to those in ICU.
There may be another, more worrying number.
When asked specifically what the current “R” — or effective transmission rate — was on Friday, Ferrer demurred.
But Dr. Ghaly said later in the press conference that R is “just slightly above 1. I’d say 1.2.” She said models show R constant and stable at that 1.2 rate through early July. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said it was close to 1.3 earlier that week.
Today, Ghaly confirmed that the R is still “at or greater than 1.”
At an R of 1, every infected person passes the virus on to only one other person, and the number of those infected remains steady. Above 1, the number of those infected begins to rise. At the hight of the pandemic in L.A., R was 3.
But small differences can still make a large difference, noted Ghaly last Friday, in availability of hospital beds over time. That supply is crucial to helping the most impacted patients survive.
Based on modeling, Ghaly then warned last week that “The number of ICU beds may become inadequate…DHS is watching this number on a daily basis very carefully.”
Today, Ghaly indicated that concern is still real.
While she said the R continues to remain stable and modeling continues to project that that number of available hospital beds and respirators will be adequate, ICU beds may still be a worry.
“There is some potential concern about a shortage of ICU beds,” said Ghaly, “but this can be taken care of by individual hospitals surging beds from one area to another.”
To understand the actual R, the DHS team tracks the actual number of new patients that are requiring hospitalization. That data is less likely to be impacted by increase of testing.
“We’ve been hovering somewhere between 1450 and 1350,” said Ferrer, “but we’ve actually stayed pretty steady. If we were to continue to see if go back up, above 1500, we would begin to be concerned.”
Wednesday’s number of new hospitalizations was 1420.
Ghaly addressed the idea that, since restrictions are being lifted, COVID-19 must be on the wane.
“Safer-at-Home was put in place when the spread was out of control,” she said. “Now that safer at home is being modified, [some think] it must mean the transmission rate is under control. This is incorrect.
“Safer-at-Home “is a very crude measure,” said Ghaly. “It is not a sustainable path…Reopening is just as important to the health of residents as closing was.”
The big spikes come as a revised county health order took effect on Friday that will permit film and TV production to resume in the county. L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti has said the city would also allow production to restart.
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