California Endures Deadliest Day Of Coronavirus Outbreak

LOS ANGELES, CA — Wednesday marked the deadliest day of the coronavirus outbreak in California, with the epicenter of the outbreak in Los Angeles. In all, 115 people died statewide from COVID-19 over the last day, and 68 of the fatal cases were clustered in Los Angeles County, officials said Thursday.

It’s a sign that California is not out the woods yet, said Gov. Gavin Newsom, who indicated that he would not lift the statewide shutdown orders in the face of mounting pressure to loosen restrictions. By Thursday, more than 1,500 Californians had died from the new coronavirus. Still, even as coronavirus cases spike in Los Angeles County, neighboring regions are lifting some restrictions.

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Ventura, Orange, and Riverside counties began lifting some local coronavirus-related restrictions, namely golf course, park and beach closures. The approach is a stark contrast to Los Angeles, where health officials are urging restless residents to stay the course. According to the Los Angeles County public health director, an average of 44 people have died from COVID-19 in the county each day since April 12, making it the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County. On average, five people a day die from the flu each day during flu season in the county, while 31 per day die of coronary heart disease.

On Thursday, Los Angeles County reported another 1,081 cases of COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 17,508.

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“I wish I could prescribe a specific date to say, well, we can turn up the light switch and go back to normalcy,” Newsom told the Los Angeles Times. “We have tried to make it crystal clear that there is no light switch. And there is no date in terms of our capacity to provide the kind of clarity that I know so many of you demand and deserve.”

Earlier this week, county health and USC researchers released a study based on antibody testing that found as many as 5.6 percent of the county’s adult population had already been infected with coronavirus by early April. According to researchers, between 221,000 and 442,000 adults were already infected by early April. Based on those estimates, as many as 1 in 20 LA County adults have already been infected, most of whom hadn’t been tested or hospitalized for COVID-19, the diseases caused by the coronavirus. That’s 28 to 55 times higher than the 7,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the county by the time of the study in early April.


Despite the spike in cases, California has largely been able to avoid a worst-case scenario for the outbreak. The nation’s earliest shutdown orders have helped California hospitals from being overwhelmed with patients so far. Newly released epidemiological models show that California and Los Angeles should have enough hospital and ICU beds under the current stay-at-home orders.

“These numbers are a stark reminder for all of us of the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19, because in slowing the spread we have the opportunity, each and every one of us, to save a life,” Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s public health director told the Times.

Included in LA county’s more than 17,000 cases are 100 homeless people, the majority of them due to an outbreak that remains under investigation at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. Ferrer said the county is still awaiting some test results from the facility, but officials said earlier this week that at least 56 people had tested positive, and one staff member has died.

A total of 286 institutional settings — including nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons — have had at least one case. Those institutions have accounted for a total of 3,343 cases, and 310 deaths, representing 39% of all coronavirus fatalities in the county. The vast majority of those deaths were residents of skilled nursing facilities, where testing is being ramped up this week to include all residents and staff regardless of whether they are showing any symptoms.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday night that testing will now be offered to all front-line workers — such as health care workers, grocery and pharmacy workers, firefighters and police officers — regardless of whether they were symptomatic. The 30-plus testing sites across the county had previously been restricted to people who were showing some type of symptoms.

Ferrer said more than 98,000 people have been tested to date across the county, with about 14% of them testing positive. She again encouraged people to get tested if they are showing symptoms, even if they might be afraid of learning the results.

“I know many people are scared of getting their results,” she said. “They’re worried that they won’t be able to manage if they’re found to be positive and need to isolate. But the county family is here to help you.”

Responding to reports that a pair of cats in New York and some animals in Hong Kong and Belgium had tested positive for the virus, Ferrer said cases in households pets are “fairly rare.” She said people who have tested positive for the virus or are in isolation with symptoms should avoid contact with pets. Other people, she said, should try to maintain basic hygiene.

“If you have pets, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands before and after you’ve been around any animals,” she said.

Ferrer said the county Department of Public Health website has guidelines for pet owners to follow during the pandemic.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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