Los Angeles is now the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is the most infected county of the most infected state in the most infected country in the world.
In the pandemic’s spring wave, New York held that distinction — and it still is the state to have seen the largest single daily number of deaths. But given that the tally of daily cases and hospitalizations continue to skyrocket in L.A. and the fact that ICU availability was 0% in Southern California on Thursday, Los Angeles is unfortunately catching up.
On Thursday, another 14,418 Covid-19 infections were confirmed in L.A. County. The new cases lifted the countywide cumulative total to 581,519. In a county of 10 million people, that means 1 in 20 residents has had the virus.
COVID-19 Daily Update:
December 17, 2020
New Cases: 14,418 (580,325 to date)
New Deaths: 102 (8,664 to date)
Current Hospitalizations: 4,864 pic.twitter.com/HL1loxYbT2
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) December 18, 2020
Even more shocking, Los Angeles County is now seeing more daily cases than entire countries, including onetime hotspots such as Spain, Mexico, Poland and Portugal.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti revealed Thursday evening that city testing results were “seeing a seven-day positivity rate of an alarming 19.6%. Some of our sites have a positivity rate as high as 30%,” he said. For L.A. County, the seven-day rate was 13.7%.”
For comparison, at the very beginning of the pandemic, California-at-large had a 40% test positivity rate. But that was when the state was conducting about 2,000 tests a day. And since lower testing numbers tend to produce higher test positivity rates, for L.A. to have 19.6% test positivity even as it is now delivering nearly 41,500 tests a day is frightening.
In the past week, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties have, respectively, registered 1,415 and 1,102 average daily cases per million residents. Of hose are the highest rates in the country aong counties with at least 1 million residents. Riverside County has the fourth-highest daily cases per million. That data is per an aggregator of government statistics used by the CDC called USAFacts.
The pandemic hit home for Garcetti on Thursday. The mayor revealed that his nine-year old daughter had tested positive for Covid-19. “Maya is doing fine and her symptoms are mild,” Garcetti said of his daughter. “My wife and I have both been tested and our test results have come back negative,” he said, before adding that he himself was quarantining.
“Our family is incredibly careful and what’s happening in my home this week is playing out across Los Angeles and this country,” said Garcetti.
The mayor said hospital officials are telling him and his staff that if Los Angeles continues on its upward trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations through Christmas, the medical facilities will “go under,” meaning they won’t be able to adequately service coronavirus patients or patients of other ailments.
He also said a “systemwide crisis” may need to be declared and a countywide emergency order could be issued if hospitals remain inundated with patients.
“Some hospitals can convert non-[intensive care unit] spaces into ICU spaces, but other hospitals can’t,” Garcetti said, adding ambulances have to be rerouted at times if a hospital is at capacity. That’s if there is capacity elsewhere. Some ambulances in Southern California have had to wait 5 and 7 hours outside ERs to deliver patients.
An emergency declaration, Garcetti said, could force the county to enact stricter measures on businesses and order other closures to make sure “we don’t have to have those harrowing visions of doctors deciding who gets that last ventilator and who doesn’t.”
Earlier this week, a consortium of powerful unions representing teachers (UTLA), nurses (California Nurses Association), healthcare (National Union of Healthcare Workers), grocery (UFCW 770) and hotel employees called for something similar. Specifically, the unions asked the L.A. County Board of Supervisors to “enact stay at home orders that are strict enough to truly suppress the virus by closing all non-essential businesses and activities in the County, for the first four weeks of January.
Garcetti said on Thursday that if the current trends continue for the next three to five weeks, the county’s health system will “have nothing left.”
City News Service contributed to this story.
You can watch the Mayor’s news conference below.
Join me live for the latest updates on this critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and our local response to keep Angelenos safe. https://t.co/mSnl3vTXz8
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) December 18, 2020
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