With Los Angeles County reporting record highs for daily new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, public health officials continue to urge residents to remain indoors as much as possible to combat the recent surge.
“Unfortunately, where we are and where we are headed is alarming,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said on Wednesday, adding that the positivity rate now stands at 12.5%. That figure was 3.5% in early November.
The county broke its record for daily new cases five times last week and has averaged nearly 8,700 the past three days, including 9,243 new cases on Wednesday. There had been 305 cases reported so far in La Cañada Flintridge as of Wednesday. The Department of Public Health reported 267 cases the previous week.
Health officials expected the number of cases to soar in the aftermath of Thanksgiving gatherings.
An emotional Ferrer fought back tears as she reported a total of 8,075 deaths related to COVID-19 in L.A. County since the pandemic began.
“The more terrible truth is that over 8,000 people, who were beloved members of their families, are not coming back and their deaths are an incalculable loss to their friends and their family as well as our community,” she said.
The three-week stay-at-home order that went into effect for Southern California on Monday was triggered by the dwindling capacity of intensive care units. According to Gov. Gavin Newsom, ICU capacity in the region was at 9% on Wednesday.
Health officials reported that 3,299 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus in L.A. County, 23% of whom were in the ICU, and Health Services Director Christina Ghaly said she expects that number to climb because the current transmission rate is more than one — indicating that every infected person infects more than one other person — and new admissions are outpacing the number of discharges.
Officials from USC-Verdugo Hills Hospital and Huntington Hospital declined to provide their ICU occupation percentage rates but stated that beds are available and encouraged people not to delay a visit should they be experiencing a medical emergency.
A Huntington spokeswoman said the institution is “doing everything we can to respond to the health care needs of our community” and urged people to “wear a mask, keep social distance and refrain from gathering this holiday season.”
The new stay-at-home order forces establishments such as nail and hair salons, barbershops, wineries, breweries, museums and botanical gardens to close.
Grocery stores may remain open at 35% occupancy and retail stores, libraries and shopping centers can operate at 20% occupancy. Restaurants are limited to takeout and delivery, gyms can operate outdoors, and schools can still offer limited in-person services.
State officials had previously closed playgrounds but reversed that decision on Wednesday.
Ferrer said COVID-19 vaccines may arrive as early as next week. L.A. County — which has more than 10 million residents — at first will receive a limited supply of about 83,000 doses and priority will go to health-care workers and high-risk patients.