On December 30th, Los Angeles County announced it had passed the dark milestone of 10,000 deaths related to Covid-19 in 2020. It was a grim end to a grim year. Now, less than a week later, the county has already passed 11,000 pandemic-related deaths.
Those numbers are a broader indication of just how quickly the region’s death toll is rising. Last week, L.A. saw three consecutive days marked by a record number of virus deaths.
Also on December 30th, the 14-day average number of daily deaths for the virus was about 150, according to L.A. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. That’s “about equal to the number of deaths from all other causes, which is about 170,” said Ferrer.
On Tuesday, the more recent 7-day average of daily deaths from the virus stood at 186 meaning, by that measure at least, Covid-19 had eclipsed all other daily causes of death in the county put together.
The total number of deaths now stands at 11,071.
L.A. County Reaches 11,000 COVID-19 Deaths as Hospitalizations Increase to Critical Levels – 224 New Deaths and 13,512 New Confirmed Cases of #COVID19 in Los Angeles County. View https://t.co/3sK8zjSMOo for more. pic.twitter.com/unMUcmYw7F
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) January 5, 2021
“Most heartbreaking,” said Ferrer last week, “is that if we had done a better job reducing transmission of the virus, many of these deaths would not have happened.”
The 224 deaths attributed to Covid-19 on Tuesday would have been, by far, the all-time record had it come before the recent surge. Now it’s a regular occurrence.
There are 7,898 people with Covid-19 hospitalized in the county and 21% of these people are in the ICU. That hospital number is a new high and an increase of more than 200 patients reported yesterday.
According to County Director of Health Services, Dr. Chrintina Ghaly, a staggering 3/4 of all patients in L.A. County ICUs are there because of Covid. That’s creating yet another crisis: a massive demand for oxygen.
“A lot of our hospitals are older,” said L.A. EMS Agency director Kathy Chidester on Thursday. “They were not intended to house this many patients. With this surge, there’s a lot of issues around oxygen. They can’t maintain the [proper] oxygen pressure because there are so many patients.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Monday the creation of a statewide “Oxygen Strategy” to confront the issue.
L.A. County reported 13,512 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday. That was up from the 9,142 new cases recorded in the region on Monday, but less than half of the record highs seen in recent weeks. Ferrer said the low number reflects the closure of many testing sites and a delay caused but the holiday.
Ferrer reported on Monday that current test positivity rate in the county was 21%. That means 1 in 5 people tested in the county is coming up positive. “Community transmission rates are so high that you run the risk of transmission whenever you leave your home,” she said.
Ferrer gave a frightening glimpse into what may lie ahead. She noted that the current 7-day average of daily cases is about 15,000. That means in two weeks the number of Covid patients hospitalized will rise from the roughly 7,600 now to as high as 9,000 a day. Using the formula that has proved accurate throughout the pandemic, that would mean more than 175 people could be dying per day from the virus. “We may very well be on our way to weekly death tolls of 1000 or more,” said Ferrer.
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