Los Angeles County’s Grim Discovery: 806 New Winter COVID Deaths

Los Angeles County added more than 800 people to the list of those who had died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, underscoring the huge death toll from the fall and winter surge.

The addition means a jump in the total number of deaths, which this week alone reached 20,000 as deaths from the disease surpassed 50,000 in California.

Most of the deaths occurred during the fall and winter surge, which overwhelmed hospitals and prompted new stay-at-home orders.

This is what we know:

How were the additional deaths found?

The backlog of 806 new COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County, most of which occurred in December and January, was discovered after extensive reviews of death records, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. .

“This was a period, as you all know, where there were a lot of deaths across the county. And not all of them were reported [the Department of] Public Health due to the volume of records ”.

The county typically identifies COVID-19 deaths through daily reports from healthcare providers. But the county also conducts an audit of the causes of death listed on the death certificates. That audit is how the additional deaths were found, Ferrer said.

“The 806 deaths being reported today,” he said, “reflect those COVID-associated deaths that occurred during the surge that were not reported to Public Health through the death report form, but were later identified through our death certificate review, and we always do these reviews. “

The additional deaths account for about 8% of the total COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County in December and January, it added.

“It is heartbreaking to report this large number of additional deaths associated with COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “And it’s a devastating reminder of the terrible toll the winter surge has inflicted on so many families across the county.”

What is the current outlook?

Despite the huge backlog of data that was reported Wednesday, both coronavirus deaths and cases have plummeted in recent weeks.

California is recording about 6,000 new cases of coronavirus a day now, up from 40,000 a day six weeks ago. The number of COVID-19 patients in California hospitals on Thursday was 6,185, down from the peak of 21,936 recorded on January 6.

The number of people in intensive care units statewide was 1,778 on Thursday, down 63% from a high of 4,868 on Jan.10 and the lowest total since Dec.1.

The outlook is dramatically improving in Los Angeles County as well.

Ferrer said Monday that daily coronavirus case counts in Los Angeles County were reaching lows not seen since before the winter surge. Over the past seven days, Los Angeles County recorded an average of 1,956 new coronavirus cases per day, 87% less than in early January, when there were more than 15,000 new cases per day.

“We continue to make progress in reducing the average daily number of new COVID-19 cases,” said Ferrer.

Los Angeles County had also seen a decline in deaths prior to the backlog of reports. In early January, the county recorded an average of 241 COVID-19 deaths per day over a seven-day period; During the most recent seven-day period, the county recorded an average of 120 deaths per day, a 50% decrease.

Additionally, the county’s positive test result rate, which topped 20% around Jan. 1, has dropped below 5%, Ferrer said.

The effective transmission rate in Los Angeles County has dropped from 0.81 a week ago to 0.76, meaning that for every 100 people infected, the virus is transmitted to 76 people.

What are the future concerns?

Overall, there is growing optimism that vaccines can combat COVID-19 and slow the spread considerably over time. One of the main problems is that the supply of vaccines remains limited.

And officials are bracing for a surge in variants of the virus that are most transmissible, including a strain from California that seems increasingly dangerous.

Officials were investigating a cluster of four coronavirus cases at USC, two of which are confirmed to be the most contagious and potentially deadliest variant first identified in Britain, B.1.1.7.

The other two cases are still awaiting confirmation from the laboratory, Ferrer said.

“All of these cases were detected as part of USC’s routine surveillance and testing program,” he said Wednesday. “People are fine and isolated. Close contacts have been identified and reported and are in quarantine. “

Scientific research suggests that currently available COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the UK variant.

“But with vaccine supplies still severely limited, local transmission of the potentially most infectious UK variant underscores the need for each of our residents to continue to use all the tools we have to prevent transmission,” Ferrer said, ” including not meeting with people you don’t live with, and distancing and masking whenever you are away from home and with other people. “

There are now 18 confirmed cases of the UK variant in Los Angeles County, more than 200 in California, and more than 1,800 across the country, with 45 states reporting cases.

Los Angeles County Director of Health Services Dr. Christina Ghaly noted Tuesday that this week could bring increases in cases resulting from gatherings during Super Bowl weekend.

“An increase in behaviors that facilitate transmission can still very easily lead to an increase in the number of hospitalized patients in just a couple of weeks,” Ghaly said. “This can happen very quickly and, as we all know, it is very difficult to turn things around and start reducing those numbers.”

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