Los Angeles recorded its highest number of daily new COVID-19 infections ever on Thursday at 5,031, according to L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis. That tops the previous high set Wednesday by more than 1,000. Before that, you have to go back to the height of the pandemic in July to find highs that are even close.
To underline the steepness of the rise in new daily cases, Davis pointed out that cases surged 68% from October 28 November 10.
“At this point, no one should still be questioning this virus,” said the county health officer, “nor should they be questioning the actions the need to be taken.”
Davis said that the average number of cases over the past two days was 4,500. That exceeds the emergency threshold set by L.A. County Director of Public Health, Barbara Ferrer recently. If cases average 4,500 or more for five consecutive days, Ferrer said the county would implement another Safer-at-Home shutdown, as it did in the spring.
“Potentially by Sunday,” said Davis, “we would need to implement that Safer-at-Home order.”
Shortly after Davis spoke, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued his own limited Stay-at-Home order which will impact 94% of the state’s population when it goes into effect late Saturday. Read more about it here. Deadline was told Thursday night by the governor’s office that film and TV production workers were exempt from the order.
The county’s five-day average of daily new cases was 2,884 on Tuesday. County officials announced on Tuesday that, if the five-day average of new cases reaches 4,000 or if hospitalizations top 1,750, outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries and wineries will end, with the businesses restricted to pick-up and delivery service only.
If the five-day case average reaches 4,500 or more, or if hospitalizations top 2,000 per day, the county will re-implement its original Safer At Home order for three weeks, allowing only essential workers to leave their homes, or residents seeking out essential services. The county at that point would also issue a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, with only essential workers exempted.
Ferrer warned on Wednesday that, if L.A. didn’t act drastically to reduce transmission, daily cases may hit “more than 4000 a day” by early December. That seems like a pipe dream, given Thursday’s 5,000-plus new cases.
Davis confirmed that Thursday’s number was an all-time high, excluding days where a case backlog was included.
The county had announced 4,825 cases back on July 29, but that included up to 2,000 backlogged results. The county’s dashboard seems now to reflect the fact that those results have since been backdated to the appropriate date.
“In all honesty,” said Davis on Thursday, “we never hoped or expected that we would be in this position at this time of the year. We hoped we would be in stage 2 getting our schools back open.”
On Wednesday Dr. Christina Ferrer, who oversees L.A. County hospitals, said that the R Effective or the rate at which new people are infected, is now 1.18. That is the highest since the country in June recorded an R Effective of 1.26. At over 1, it means that every new patient is going on to infect more than one additional person. In a county of 10 million, even that small number over 1 can mean huge growth.
The 7-day test positivity rate has risen from 3.1% on November 1, 5.8 on November 8 and 7.1% today. That’s even as the county has increased testing from around 40,000 a day in early October to about 65,000 a day this week.
“There’s a silver lining here,” said Ferrer. “Clinicians and physicians have learned how to better treat the virus.” That means, she said fewer people who are hospitalized with the virus are dying.
But, she warned, if hospitals and ICUs are overwhelmed, COVID-19 patients will go untreated and a greater number of them will die. “If our case rates keep going up and our hospitalization rate is higher than July, there is no way we can keep up.”
“I don’t think it’s inevitable that we get there,” said Ferrer. “The hope is we do every single thing that we can. We’re a little behind, to be honest. This has been a community that has rallied before.”
Dr. Christina Ghaly, who oversees hospitals in L.A., said that there has been a “significant increase in new patients in hospitals” in the past week. In September, there were about 100 new COVID cases a day. Now, she said, it’s “closer to 200 a day.” Ghaly warned that an increase in hospitalizations is almost inevitable in the next two weeks, given the currenet number of new cases and the virus’s incubation period.
Currently there are about 1200 people in L.A. hospitals with COVID, she said. “Half of of those are in ICU,” observed Ghaly. “Two thirds of those are on a ventilators. One half of those will die,” she said, “based on previous experience.”
Ghaly indicated that “It is highly likely that will will experience the highest rate of hospitalizations we have seen in the COVID1-9 pandemic to date in the next month.” If trends continue as they are she said, “demand for ICUs will outstrip the supply of beds.”
Hospital beds can be surged and that is happening, she explained. Likewise ICU beds. But, the “primary limiting factor is the availability of staff who are highly trained in an ICU environment, and that is not easy to come by.” It takes months (and money) to train an ICU nurse.
Ferrer indicated that the total number of new daily deaths related to the virus was 36.
LA County #COVID19 cases are surging and there are some simple things you can do:
– Avoid all indoor gatherings
– Reconsider and cancel travel plans
– Wear your face covering when outside your home
– Keep your distance from people you don't live with
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) November 18, 2020
The numbers come just one day after Ferrer announced increased restrictions on businesses across the county in an attempt to curb social spreading of the virus.
City News Service contributed to this report.