Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer reported on Friday that 11% of all positive coronavirus cases are hospitalized, which is slightly down. A more concerning number, she said, is that 1,488 people with confirmed cases are currently hospitalized.
“This has been a slight increase over the last three days in the number of people hospitalized,” said the director, “and we’ll need to make sure that we’re not starting to see a significant increase in the number of people requiring hospitalizations.”
The hospitalization rate is a crucial number because one of the greatest concerns with COVID-19 is that its rapid rate of spread may quickly overwhelm health care systems, leading to more Angelenos going untreated and, presumably, a greater mortality rate. Thus, the term “flattening the curve” became an easy way to explain how residents could keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, the director of health services for L.A. County, noted that another key indicator of virus spread, the “R” or effective transmission rate, seems to be rising slightly. Ideally that number would be 1 or under 1, she said.
At 1, every infected person passes the virus on to only one other person, and the number of those infected remains steady. At under 1, the number of those infected begins to fall.
“After the introduction of the safer at home health officer orders,” said Ghaly, “the R fell rapidly from initially around 3 to 3.5 to around 1.”
“R does appear now to be greater than 1 and slightly uptrending,” she continued. “If transmission has indeed increased, then the model predicts that we will have a continued increase in hospital patient volume over the next 2-4 weeks. And we would anticipate seeing that trend [become noticeable] over the coming 1-2 weeks.”
“Even with this trend,” Dr. Ghaly continued, “the number of hospital beds and ventilators does appear to be adequate to meet the demand of COVID-19 patients over the next 4 weeks.
But, she warned, “The number of ICU beds may become inadequate in 4 weeks. DHS is watching this number on a daily basis very closely.”
Earlier on Friday, California Governor Gavin Newsom also expressed concern at coronavirus numbers rising as the state reopens.
“We have been preparing for an increase in cases as we reopen our economy,” said Newsom. He indicated that a rise in numbers was to be expected “after the mixing that has occurred due to the protests.” The governor noted capacity of resources, including hospitals and ventilators would be key to combating any spike.
“Our capacity has never been greater,” he said. “We have a plan that details…plans that are required of each county. They’re called ‘attestation plans'” and, the governor emphasized, “They are containment plans.”
Important elements of these are testing, tracing and tracking, capacity on PPE and human resources, according to the governor.
Finally back in L.A. County, Ferrer announced 36 additional deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. She said that the total number of deaths in the county is now 2,565.
The director also reported 1445 new cases of coronavirus and 61,045 total in the region since the outbreak began.
Over the past seven days, the positivity rate has dropped to 4.4% which, she indicated, is good news.