How 1,000 people with coronavirus in L.A. County can turn into 1 million in a few weeks

Alex Wigglesworth, Soumya Karlamangla, Anita Chabria
Tenth-grader Fredy Rubio, 16, and his mother, Carolyn Chavez, pick up a laptop at Linda Esperanza Marquez High School in Huntington Park on Thursday so he can do schoolwork at home.  (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County on Thursday saw a spike in both confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths.

Officials have expected the number of cases to increase as more testing became available, and that is occurring. The question is: How much longer will the case numbers explode so dramatically?

Many of those now listed as being infected got sick before social distancing rules were imposed across California, so it's still not fully clear how much the restrictions might slow the spread. The hope is that confined movements eventually will make a difference.

Health officials on Thursday stressed how important social distancing is.

"If there are 1,000 people who are positive and each one of those people infects two other people ... within a few weeks, there could be a million people infected in L.A. County," said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

The numbers

— L.A. County reported an additional 421 confirmed cases Thursday, for a total of 1,229

— A total of 253 people were at some point hospitalized, which amounts to about 21% of all positive cases

— The mortality rate in L.A. County is 1.6%

— About 9,400 people have been tested in the county, with about a 10% positive rate

— Hospitalizations have been increasing significantly in L.A. County:

Friday: 48

Saturday: 69

Sunday: 84

Monday: 90

Tuesday: 118

Wednesday: 160

Thursday: 253











— Here is the age breakdown of those infected with COVID-19 in the county:

0-17: 0

18-40: 310

41-65: 303

65+: 141





California

Cases are also spiking across the state.

Statewide: 3,718 cases, 78 deaths

Los Angeles: 1,229 cases, 21 deaths

Santa Clara: 459 cases, 17 deaths

San Diego: 277 cases, 2 deaths

San Francisco: 223 case, 2 deaths

San Mateo: 195 cases, 5 deaths

Orange: 187 cases, 1 death

California’s top medical advisor said Wednesday that COVID-19 cases in the state continued to double every three to four days.

That pace, he said, is on par with New York, where some hospitals are packed.

If the rate holds, California hospitals could see a surge in patients in one to two weeks, Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said during a Facebook news conference.

“We originally thought that it would be doubling every six to seven days; we see cases doubling every three to four days,” Ghaly said. "[We’re] watching that trend very, very closely.”

Los Angeles County public health officials said Thursday that the Convention Center will be used for the quarantine and isolation of COVID-19 patients who have been released from hospitals and do not need acute medical treatment but may still be contagious.

With cases and deaths rising, Ferrer had a message for L.A.: “Please help us reduce the number of people with serious illness by doing your part. Social distancing is hard — so take advantage of some of the activities offered by our county departments like virtual workouts, e-books and virtual story hours for kids through the library, virtual museum tours by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and services from the Department of Mental Health for those who may be feeling stressed, depressed or anxious during this difficult time.”