Health & Fitness

LA County Sees Highest Single-Day Death Toll Of Entire Pandemic

Los Angeles County reported 145 coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, the highest single-day number of the entire pandemic.

Los Angeles County Wednesday reported its highest number of coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Los Angeles County Wednesday reported its highest number of coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic. (Cesc Maymo/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA — Los Angeles County reported 145 coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, the highest single-day number of the entire pandemic.

The county also announced another 16,525 cases, while the number of people hospitalized is 6,155, although the state estimated the county's hospital number at 6,499 as of Wednesday.

The transmission rate of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County is now estimated at 1.11, representing the average number of people a COVID-19 patient infects with the virus. The rate is down from last week's estimate of 1.2. The county's modeling now suggests that about 1 in every 95 residents who aren't hospitalized or in quarantine are infected with the virus and capable of spreading it. That compares with last week's estimate of 1 in 80. The county continues to estimate that 25 percent of residents have had the virus at some point.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County health director, said Wednesday that the best way to help thank front-line workers and show gratitude is to stay home, avoid gatherings and wear a mask anytime in public.

"As we enter this holiday season, I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to the tens of thousands of front line workers, the medical teams and health care workers who are treating the thousands of people fighting to survive infections from COVID-19," Ferrer said. "The paramedics and firefighters who answer the 911 calls every day from people asking for help and they're rendering care in all types of emergency situations. Our public health practitioners who have been leading efforts to reduce transmission and respond to outbreaks and all the workers who provide us with food, goods and services at our stores, ensure our safety and keep our infrastructure functional. Every day the dedication and courage of all these teams of front-line workers makes it possible for our lives to continue during these very challenging times."

The concern for health care workers and overloading the health care system has grown, she said.

"I'm very worried today that there are thousands of LA County residents whose actions are creating tremendous risk and contributing to the continued surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths," Ferrer said. "This virus makes people sick because a person with COVID-19 — through their breathing, singing, talking, chanting — expels the virus in their respiratory droplets, and other people nearby are then infected by the droplets. This need not happen if we stay away from non-household members as much as possible. And when we must be around others for work or to obtain essential service, we're always wearing a face mask and we're keeping our distance."

Sacrificing social gatherings is a nod to saving others, she added.

"We know by staying home we're giving others the ultimate holiday gift: We may be saving their lives," Ferrer said. "So once again, I'm asking everyone to take all precautions over the holiday break."

With thousands of cases of newly infected people every day and the fact that people can be asymptomatic, it is highly likely that people in LA County could come into contact with people who have the virus.

"The most effective strategy is for each person in your household to minimize contact with people outside their household while there's this much community transmission," Ferrer said. "Right now, it's time to double or triple our efforts to keep each other safe."

Despite pleas from public health officials, people have traveled outside of Los Angeles County for the holidays.

"We simply ask that when you return, don't make the situation worse than it already is," Ferrer said. "When you come back, you must stay home and quarantine for at least 10 days. This is very important and will help ensure that you are not potentially or unwittingly transmitting the virus to others. If you test positive or you're showing symptoms, please stay put and don't travel anywhere."

Ferrer referred to an incident earlier this week when a passenger traveling from Florida to LAX who tested positive for the virus died on a flight.

"We're in the middle of a horrific surge and we all need to take the hard steps and the wise steps to reduce transmissions and exposures now, during the holidays and as we begin 2021. The sooner we all take these vitally important steps, the sooner we can stop the rising cases ... overwhelming our hospital care system."

There are 6,155 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19; 20 percent of those hospitalized are in the ICU, and 16 percent are on ventilators. To date, more than 4 million people have been tested for the virus in LA County. The cumulative positivity rate is 14 percent.

As the increase of cases is alarming, there is hope on the horizon as health care workers have started receiving the Pfizer vaccine in Los Angeles County this week, she said. The county is collecting data from the 85 acute locations receiving vaccinations, as well as teams going to skilled nursing facilities to administer vaccines to health care workers and residents and to support people administering the vaccinations.

"As of Tuesday night, more than 38,800 front-line health care workers have been vaccinated at our acute care hospitals with the Pfizer vaccine," she said.

"We also received our first shipment of the Moderna vaccine yesterday and today," Ferrer said.

The plan is to distribute those doses to skilled nursing facilities, EMTs and fire departments next, she said.

A stay-at-home order is expected to be extended in Southern California given this trend and staggering rate of increased cases, she added.

"The urgency is in front of us to make sure we don't create a new surge of cases associated with the winter holiday," Ferrer said.

"While our front-line health care workers do everything they can to save lives, COVID-19 is a deadly virus," Ferrer said. "The unfortunate reality is as we see more cases, we see more people hospitalized — and, tragically, this ends up being followed by more deaths. Since Nov. 9, average daily deaths have increased 467 percent from 12 average deaths per day to now 69 average deaths per day on Dec. 16."

"For those missing their loved ones who have passed, we extend our deepest sympathies for your loss, and we wish you peace this holiday," Ferrer said.

- City News Service and Patch Editor Nicole Charky contributed to this report.

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