L.A. County reports highest daily total of coronavirus deaths in more than 9 months

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MISSION HILLS, CA - JANUARY 14: Palliative care physician Dr. Marwa Kilani, MD, hands a patient some liquid inside the covid unit at Providence Holly Cross Medical Center Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 in Mission Hills, CA. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
A palliative care physician hands a patient some liquid inside the COVID-19 unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials reported 66 coronavirus deaths on Saturday, the highest number in more than nine months.

The number of coronavirus-positive patients hospitalized increased to 4,386, and 41,765 new positive cases were reported.

“The extraordinary high number of new cases reflects worrisome rates of community transmission,” officials said in a statement.

The recent rapid spread of coronavirus cases, fueled by the Omicron variant, has put a strain on emergency rooms in Los Angeles County and other parts of California.

With Saturday’s numbers, L.A. County is now averaging about 42,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week, another pandemic record.

For the prior week, the county was averaging 29,000 cases a day; and last winter’s peak was about 16,000 cases a day.

L.A. County is also averaging 34 COVID-19 deaths a day over the last week — roughly double the number from the prior week.

Average daily deaths, however, remain far below last winter’s peak, when during a seven-day period that ended Jan. 14, 2021, the county reported an average of 238 COVID-19 deaths a day.

Health officials have said that some of the deaths reported recently could still be tied to the Delta variant, rather than the Omicron strain, which is behind the nationwide surge. On Saturday, however, they noted the majority of deaths reported this week were associated with “individuals who became infected after Dec. 20 when Omicron was circulating widely.”

“As deaths often lag behind surges in cases and hospitalizations, sadly, the increase in deaths does not come as a surprise and tragically, we are prepared for even higher number of deaths in the coming weeks,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

The 4,386 coronavirus-positive patients hospitalized in the county is the highest in almost a year, but a little more than half of the peak of 8,098 recorded on Jan. 5, 2021.

There were 602 coronavirus-positive patients in intensive care units in the county as of Friday, also the highest such number in nearly a year.

There has been a small reduction in the county's positivity rate. For the seven-day period that ended Saturday, the positivity rate was 17.9%. The week prior it was 20.8%

But health officials have warned that overall demand for L.A. County’s emergency rooms remains high, reflecting a combination of factors, including the continued demand for coronavirus and flu care along with greater demand for care for other reasons this winter.

As of Thursday, L.A. County reported about 15,000 people were admitted to hospitals for all reasons, nearing last winter’s high of 16,500, “when most hospitals were frankly overwhelmed,” Ferrer said in a recent news briefing.

Officials urged eligible residents to get vaccinated and boosted, noting that people who are unvaccinated are two to four times more likely to get infected and 22 times more likely to die than those who are fully vaccinated.

They also encouraged residents to upgrade from cloth masks to N95, KN95, KF94 or surgical masks and to “limit nonessential activities where people are unmasked and crowded together, especially if indoors, until transmission is lower.”

More than 28,000 county residents have died since the start of the pandemic, health officials said.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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