LOS ANGELES, CA — The increase in coronavirus deaths that Los Angeles County health officials have been predicting arrived this week as hundreds of Angelenos died from COVID-19.
A few days after setting a grim record for daily COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles — 91 lives lost, Los Angeles continues to see high daily death tolls. Another 69 deaths were reported across Los Angeles County on Friday. The report capped a week in which the average daily coronavirus deaths spiked from previous week's average of 38 deaths. Since June, Los Angeles County has seen a dramatic increase in new coronavirus infections, but the death rate remained fairly low. That was partly because the coronavirus is spreading more among young people. It also may have just taken time for the death toll to catch up with the surging outbreak.
The new deaths increased the countywide death toll since the start of the pandemic to 4,624. Health officials across Los Angeles County also confirmed another 2,711 cases Friday, bringing the countywide total of cases from throughout the pandemic rose to 188,541. Health officials have been warning about an anticipated increase in deaths, following a sharp increase in hospitalizations that began in mid-July, roughly two weeks after the Fourth of July weekend that is being blamed for prompting numerous public gatherings despite health restrictions banning them.
"As we are seeing increases these past few days in the numbers of people dying from COVID-19, the reality of the devastation cannot be ignored," county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "Nor can we ignore the reality that there are actions each person can take to prevent these tragic outcomes.
"Together, we can slow the spread of this deadly virus with simple acts of respect and kindness -- wear a face covering, avoid gathering with people you don't live with, stay home as much as possible and practice hand hygiene," she said. "Together, we can heal."
Hospital admissions have been leveling off over the past week, but the number of people hospitalized still remains high, with 2,002 confirmed patients as of Friday. That number topped 2,200 for several days earlier this month, the highest level of the pandemic.
The county again reminded businesses owners of their responsibility to adhere to public health protocols for operating, including the requirement to report to the county any outbreaks of three or more cases.
The county's health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, told reporters Thursday that three food-processing plants that were recently shuttered by the county due to large-scale outbreaks failed to report the cases to the county. All of them had at least 40 confirmed cases of the virus, but the county only learned of the outbreaks through an anonymous tipline.
Those outbreaks occurred at Golden State Foods Corp. in Industry, S&S Foods in Azusa and Mission Foods in Commerce. While the companies have reopened, Davis said an investigation is continuing into two deaths of Mission Food employees that may have due to the virus.
Relatives of one of those employees, 67-year-old Jose Roberto Alvarez Mena, have complained that his death could have been prevented, saying employees at Mission Foods were never notified about an outbreak of the illness.
"It meant that not every precaution was taken, and this probably could have been avoided," Mena's daughter, Alisha Alvarez, told CBS2.
A Mission Foods' executive told the station in a statement that the facility was closed for only one day, during which it worked with county officials to ensure the company was in full compliance with health guidelines.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.