“We need to assume that COVID-19 is everywhere right now,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at his Wednesday Coronavirus briefing.
He reported 3,266 new coronavirus cases in the region for a total of 164,870 cases. That means the 7-day average of daily new infections has more than doubled in the past month. One reason for the rise? A new demographic. People under 41 years old now make up the majority of new cases in the region.
Garcetti said there had been a near-record 2,207 COVID-related hospitalizations in L.A. County as of Wednesday. That’s just 25 patients below the all-time high of 2,232, which was recorded on Monday. It marked the fourth day in a row that hospitalizations were above 2,000.
Given the lower demand for ICU beds and ventilators among healthier young people, there has been a projected change in the need for ICU beds and ventilators. The capacity of those currently seems adequate.
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But earlier in the day Dr. Christina Ghaly, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services warned, “The number of staffed ICU beds may be inadequate.”
The number of staffed ICU beds is “hovering between 130-160 beds on a given day,” said Ghaly. That’s for a population of 10 million. Garcetti said there were currently 623 ICU patients with coronavirus. That’s a 51 percent increase in the past month.
Health officials reported there were 64 new deaths, the third-highest total since the pandemic began. That brought the total number of COVID-related deaths in the region to 4,213. “Deaths are on a downward trajectory,” said Ferrer, but that number could quickly increase due to the number of patients hospitalized.
Today’s statistics are a snapshot from a few weeks before, according to the mayor. “Some things did open up too quickly,” said Garcetti. Those actions residents are taking now and in the past week will show up a little down the road. “We’ll know more in a few days how we’ve responded,” he said. County Health officials were more exact. “We did a lot more things about 10 days ago,” said aL.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer, “and really need to wait another week or two to see what the impact of those actions are on getting us back to slowing the spread.”
When asked under what conditions the city would shut down again, the mayor said, “If we did see double digit growth of one of those key indicators — positivity, hospitalizations — yes, of course” the city would take action.
Asked a similar question on CNN Wednesday evening, Ferrer answered, “Overwhelming our health care system or getting close to overwhelming our health care system. We have ample capacity in our hospitals still. We obviously can’t continue to accelerate the daily hospitalizations and maintain capacity in the hospitals, but right now we are not overwhelming our hospitals.”
“So we do think that the steps people are taking today will hopefully lead us to a place where we start slowing the spread again,” said Ferrer.
But, warned the mayor, “We will always have our finger on the dimmer switch, and we are not afraid to use it.”
“We’re seeing some hopeful signs,” he said, noting that the transmission rate is now .94, “below that magical number of 1,” said Garcetti. That means for every person infected, slightly less than one other person gets infected by them, statistically. “While there’s good news, don’t forget how fragile this moment is,” reminded the mayor.
Earlier in the day, the Director of Public Health for L.A. County offered some grim news.
“COVID-19 appears to be on track to claim more lives in L.A. County than any other disease than coronary heart disease,” warned the director. Flu, she said, is nowhere near as deadly as COVID-19. In the first six months of 2020, COVID-19 killed twice as many people in the region as did the flu over the 8-month flu season this year and last.
Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday reported a record 12,807 new coronavirus cases in the state. He said this total was “the highest in the nation.” The previous record for California came on July 7, with 11,694 new caes..
California now has 413,576 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That tops the 408,886 seen in New York State as of Wednesday.
Of course, California is the most populous state in the U.S., with about twice as many residents as New York State, so those totals should be taken in the context of the states’ total populations. But it is telling given that New York was previously the epicenter of the virus in the nation and, at one point, the world.