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County coronavirus death toll surpasses 300

LOS ANGELES — The coronavirus death toll surged above 300 in Los Angeles County while the area’s mortality rate from the illness continued an unnerving rise April 13, but only 239 new cases were reported, the lowest daily increase since late March.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, reported 25 new deaths from the illness, raising the total to 320. She said 11 of those people were over age 65 with underlying health conditions, and 12 were between 41 and 65, with all but one of them having existing health conditions.

Long Beach officials announced that its total number deaths had increased to 14. With the additional Long Beach fatalities, the countywide number of deaths actually reached 324. The city of Long Beach has its own health department separate from the county.

The 239 new cases marked the lowest daily increase reported by the county since March 26, Ferrer said. She noted that numbers released on Mondays tend to be lower because of more limited testing availability over the weekend. But the daily increase was actually slightly higher, with officials in Long Beach reporting an additional 13 cases.

Ferrer said the county’s case total stood at 9,420, but the additional Long Beach cases increases that number to 9,433.

The county’s mortality rate, representing the percentage of people with the disease who have died, rose to 3.4%. That figure has been steadily increasing over the past week and a half. In early April, the figure was 1.8%. 

As of April 13, 23 new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed among the county’s homeless population. Nineteen of those people were unsheltered. The four who were living in shelters have been placed in isolation, and people who came in contact with them have been quarantined, Ferrer said.

According to Ferrer, around 29% of the people who have died from coronavirus in the county were residents of nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. The county is investigating cases at 185 “institutional settings,” such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons that have had at least one case. Those institutions have had a total of 1,372 cases and 92 deaths, all among residents.

“With the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, we continue to see more and more cases among staff and residents at institutional settings,” Ferrer said. “And I know this is a challenging time to try to figure out how to best meet the needs that often require that people remain in institutional settings while making sure that we have every protection possible both for residents and for staff. … We have [public health] teams that work with every single facility that has a positive case so that management and staff along with county support can do their very best to protect the health of people who are residing in our facilities.”

A total of 89 cases have been confirmed in the county’s jails — 26 inmates and 63 staff members. There were also 28 cases in prisons, involving 18 inmates and 10 staffers, while four staff members at county juvenile facilities have tested positive, Ferrer said.

Ferrer also said there have been 787 cases of the virus reported among health care workers, roughly one-third of them being nurses, while about 9% are doctors. She said three people have died, two who worked in hospitals and one correctional health worker.

Of the cases among health-care workers, 43% occurred among hospital workers, 19% in skilled nursing facilities and 12% in outpatient facilities.

“I want to start by thanking every single person that works in our health care facilities, from the receptionists and the cleaning crews to the nurses and the physicians,” she said. “Your jobs are especially challenging during the pandemic and we’re grateful for your dedication and your ability to come to work every single day so we can all receive the dare that we need when we seek medical services.“We support all the work that’s being done to make sure every health care workers has the personal protective equipment that’s needed,” Ferrer said. “And we know that the best way to help health care workers is to make sure they are as safe as possible when they go to work every day to save lives. The word ‘grateful’ does not begin to describe how we feel about our health care workers. Their heroism and sacrifice cannot be understated.”

Wave Wire Services