Every minute, on average, 10 people in L.A. County test positive for COVID -19, and these 15,000 individuals who test positive each day were capable of infecting others for two days before they had any symptoms or knew they were positive, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Monday. At least 10-12% of people infected with the virus end up hospitalized at some point, and more than 1% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 end up dying.
Since the current surge began in early-November, deaths increased by more than 1,000%. Deaths increased from 12 deaths a day in early-November to more than 200 daily reported deaths last week. On Monday, 137 new deaths and 12,617 new cases of COVID-19 were reported — though the numbers likely reflect a reporting lag from over the weekend.
“The damaging impact to our families and our local hospitals from this surge is the worst disaster our county has experienced in decades,” public health officials said in a press release. “And, as with other terrifying situations, the end of the surge only happens when more people and businesses take control and do the right thing. The biggest single factor contributing to the surge comes down to the actions individuals are taking.”
Struggling hospitals are currently treating 7,910 people with COVID-19 and 22% of these people are in the ICU. The county has gone from an average of 791 people hospitalized with COVID-19 two months ago to an average of around 8,000 patients. That is an increase of more than 1,000%.
“We are approaching the one-year anniversary of our first known positive case in L.A. County. We understand it’s been a long and exhausting journey these past 12 months. With the roll out of vaccinations, there is hope for a brighter future,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of Public Health. “However, we need to make sure everyone survives to benefit from the vaccine. Now is not the time to meet with friends at your home to watch the game. It is not the time to go for a walk without a mask. All it takes is one mistake and soon, five, 10 or 20 other people become infected — many of whom could be your friends, family members, or colleagues.”
As of last week, hospitals received 220,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses and vaccinated 160,000 health care workers; about 75% completion rate. Hospitals began providing their eligible staff second doses last week and more than 22,000 healthcare workers are now fully vaccinated. Hospitals received 37,000 additional doses last week, in addition to the 60,000 remaining doses, to ensure they can continue to provide second doses this week. Hospitals have 74,000 confirmed vaccination appointments for their healthcare workers this week.
At skilled nursing facilities, among 54,500 eligible residents and staff at 322 of these sites that completed a survey last week, 67% of employees and 66% of residents have been vaccinated. Individuals with active infection are not eligible for vaccination and some employees work at more than one site and therefore are not vaccinated at each site. The remaining 18 skilled nursing facilities are all being assisted by Public Health, city, and county teams with their vaccination efforts in hopes that these are completed by next week.
New state directives went into effect Monday directing public health departments to expanded the vaccination program to include all health care workers within Tiers 2 and 3 in Phase 1A. More than 75 vaccination locations have been established to facilitate the administration of doses to individuals within these tiers. The county has so far opened more than 20 designated vaccination centers for frontline health care workers in Phase 1A and has made arrangements with multiple pharmacies to facilitate vaccinations for them and others within Phase 1A. Health care workers can make an appointment on the county’s public health website.
Public Health, in collaboration with the County Fire Department, Internal Services Department and the Office of Emergency Management, is planning to open five large-capacity vaccination sites next week that will speed up vaccinations for frontline health care workers in Phase 1A. Public Health department staff are being reassigned in order to expand capabilities for this short-term effort. Public Health estimates that these five sites, in addition to private partner sites, will help in vaccinating an additional 500,000 health care workers by the end of January.
As the county nears the end of Phase 1A, officials are looking to starting vaccinations for groups within next phase 1B — which includes senior 65 and older and those at risk of exposure at essential sectors like education, child care, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, sheltering services and some manufacturing. The county expects to begin vaccinations for eligible individuals in Phase 1B, assuming ample vaccines are allocated to the county, by early February. Following that, they expect to begin vaccinations for persons within Phase 1C — including seniors 50-64 years old, people 16-49 years old who have an underlying health condition or disability, and those at risk of exposure in additional sectors like defense, energy, water, communications, financial services and government or community operations — in late March.
Public Health will host a COVID-19 Vaccine Town Hall on Jan. 19 to allow residents to learn more details about the vaccine and the program to immunize residents in the coming weeks and months. The town hall will be streamed live on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube @lapublichealth. For more information, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov.
While the surge has not impacted people experiencing homelessness to the same degree as others, there has been an increase in deaths among people experiencing homelessness. In early December, there were about two deaths a week among people experiencing homelessness and now for the seven-day period ending Jan. 2, there were 14 deaths among people experiencing homelessness.
Another highly vulnerable group are people who are incarcerated. Since this pandemic began, county, state and federal authorities have worked to help reduce the potential for outbreaks at prisons and jail facilities in Los Angeles County. For the most recent weekly report ending Jan. 2, there were a total of four deaths over these seven days.