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County faces 'real and alarming' surge in coronavirus cases

Significant increase in Palmdale

City News Service | 11/13/2020, midnight

Again warning of a “real and alarming'' surge in COVID-19 cases, Los Angeles County's public health director said this week the county is vastly expanding its community outreach efforts to educate residents about slowing transmission of the virus, particularly in hard-hit areas.

By mid-week, health officials had confirmed 2,152 new cases of COVID-19 and 22 additional deaths, bringing the total to 327,964 cases and 7,216 fatalities.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, noted that some individual communities within the county are seeing disturbingly high case rates. At press time, Pacoima topped the list of most-impacted communities, with an adjusted rate over two weeks of 506 cases per 100,000 residents. That's more than double the countywide rate of 188 cases per 100,000 residents.

Also at press time, Sun Valley was second on the list with 456 cases per 100,000 residents, followed by Palmdale at 406. Other communities on the list were East Los Angeles, Van Nuys, El Monte, Downey, Pomona, North Hollywood, Glendale, Santa Clarita, South Gate, Florence-Firestone, Canoga Park and Panorama City.

“For everyone who's living in these communities, please note you need to take extra precautions,'' Ferrer said. “And if you've had an exposure, you should know that there's plenty of testing available so you can go in immediately and find a place to get tested.''

She said no specific reasons have been identified in the hard-hit communities to explain why they have such higher case rates. But the county is expanding its Community Health Worker Outreach Initiative, which sends health workers to interact with residents and provide them with virus information or connect them with resources.

The county had roughly 60 people assigned to that effort, but last week it trained another 170 staffers who will begin fanning out this week, “to amplify our messaging and provide general education to everybody who lives in communities experiencing a disproportionately high burden of disease,'' Ferrer said.

A large part of that messaging will be warnings against gatherings that public health officials are blaming for fueling the surge that has seen the county reporting more than 2,000 virus cases daily since late last week, including 4,600 over the weekend.

“These numbers are demonstrating real and alarming increases, and the next two weeks will be crucial,'' she said. “As we go into our cooler months and many holidays, we are increasingly worried about more and more transmission of the virus and more hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19.''