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LA County reportedly ‘under seige’ as virus infections, deaths increase

Worst point since start of pandemic

City News Service | 12/25/2020, midnight

Marking the worst point of the COVID-19 pandemic, but warning of even more devastating times ahead, Los Angeles County health officials by mid-month had reported record-shattering numbers of virus deaths,

cases and hospitalizations that have the emergency medical system “under seige.’’ The county Department of Public Health reported 138 additional coronavirus fatalities, seven of which were reported by Dec. 16 by

health officials in Long Beach. The new deaths, which represented the highest single-day number ever reported, lifted the countywide cumulative total to 8,568 by mid-month. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said average daily deaths from COVID-19 in the county have spiked up 267 percent (at press time) since Nov. 9, reaching 44 per day as of the week of Dec. 13, and even higher this week given the recent rising death figures. Ferrer said that equates to two people in the county dying from COVID-19 every hour.

The 21,411 confirmed cases marked another pandemic high, although about 7,000 of those cases were attributed to a reporting deadline from one of the county’s largest test-processing labs. As of Dec. 16,

the county had a cumulative total of 539,097 confirmed cases from throughout the pandemic.

The surge in cases has led to a critical situation at hospitals, with 4,656 COVID-19 patients admitted by mid-month, at the time the second consecutive day that number has risen by about 200. About 21 percent

of those patients, or roughly 978, are being treated in intensive-care units. County Health Services Director Christina Ghaly said hospitals are now averaging about 600 coronavirus admissions per day, up from

about 500 last week. Based on current trends, hospitals could be admitting anywhere from 750 to 1,350 new COVID admissions per day by the end of December, she said. “Our hospitals are under siege, and our model shows no end in sight,’’ Ghaly said, adding, “The worst is still before us.’’ Ghaly reported that by mid-month, the county—which has about 10 million residents—had a total of 102 available and staffed ICU beds, and 814 general hospital beds. The county’s 70 “911-receiving’’ hospitals have a combined total licensed capacity of about 2,500 ICU beds. Hospitals have been were operating a daily average of about

10,360 non-ICU beds. The daily number of ICU and standard hospital beds operating in the county varies based on staffing available to treat patients in them.