Home Health News Health Officials Expect COVID-19 Deaths To Climb As LA County Reaches 'Critical Juncture' – LAist

Health Officials Expect COVID-19 Deaths To Climb As LA County Reaches 'Critical Juncture' – LAist

15 min read


Gov. Gavin Newsom delivered an update on California’s response to coronavirus. You can watch the video above and read highlights below.


There were 11,694 new COVID-19-positive patients reported in California yesterday, Newsom said — though that number includes a backlog reported from laboratories in Los Angeles County. Removing L.A., the state’s positives would be below 10,000 for yesterday.

The seven-day average is 8,116 cases each day this past week, which Newsom said was more of a key number to watch. There were 111 deaths in the most recent reporting period.

The state’s positivity rate is up to 7.1% over the past two weeks. That’s a 39% increase over that time period. The governor warned that this number could quickly spike, noting that other states have had numbers recently even above 20%.

Over the past two weeks, there has been a 44% increase in the number of hospitalizations, Newsom said. The state’s hospital capacity is at 60% including all patients (both COVID and non-COVID). COVID-19 patients take up about 8% of that capacity.

Intensive Care Unit admissions are up 34% over the past two weeks. COVID-19 patients occupy 15% of the state’s ICU beds.

There are now 26 of the state’s 58 counties on the state’s monitoring list. That includes L.A., Orange, and other Southern California counties. Three counties were added today; a week ago, there were 19 counties on the list. Being on the list requires those counties to make modifications to their stay-at-home orders.

So far, 18 of those counties have issued local orders making those adjustments, including both L.A. and Orange counties. Four have agreed to follow state-issued orders, including Riverside and San Bernardino counties. There are four more counties the state is awaiting action from, including the three announced today — Newsom said that he expects quick action from them. He said that the majority of counties are acting in the way that everyone would hope they would.

Newsom said that on either Friday or Monday, he will be providing an update on testing, including on how the state will be doing more targeted testing. A new testing task force, including new strategies, will be announced soon, Newsom said. The state will be working to change how it does testing to help avoid delays, moving away from relying on national labs that cause those delays. Newsom said that they still want to encourage people to get tested and said he didn’t want people to feel discouraged from getting tested.


The governor noted that positivity rates, case numbers, hospitalization numbers, and ICU numbers, are all continuing to increase.

Newsom said that these are the key reasons for increased hospitalizations:

  • Not enough people wearing masks and physically distancing
  • Increased mixing outside of households
  • Prison and jail outbreaks
  • Essential workplace outbreaks

Newsom noted that more than 60% of the state’s economy never shut down, at least in a modified way. Many of those essential workers put their lives and health on the line, Newsom said. This includes people like grocery employees, food workers, and farm workers, Newsom said. Many of them are young, and a large number are members of diverse populations, with Black and Brown people being overrepresented, Newsom said.


He said he wanted to use today’s update to talk about how the state has prepared its health care system for what’s expected to be an uptick in coronavirus hospitalizations.

Californians staying home have enabled the state to save lives and to prepare the health care systems for a large surge, Newsom said.

There were three priorities in that preparation, according to the governor:

  1. Ensure Californians who need access to hospital care, receive it.
  2. Maximize capacity within current hospital settings.
  3. Build additional capacity outside hospital settings.

L.A. County has one of the largest numbers of hospital beds, according to Newsom, compared with other counties.

In March, the state had hospital surge capacity of 20%, no established alternate care sites, and no pre-positioned medical assets, according to Newsom.

Now, the state has capacity to treat 50,000 COVID-19 patients, has established alternate care sites and new hospital capacity, and has deployed federal medical resources to help in areas vulnerable to spikes in COVID-19.

There have been 35,000 applications for the California Health Corps with valid licenses in those health professions, Newsom said. So far, 741 Health Corps individuals have been deployed to skilled nursing, corrections, and other facilities — others have yet to be needed. The governor encouraged others to continue to apply, as there may be needs in different parts of the state that are under-resourced or needs for people with specific licenses.


Newsom said he has confidence in hospitals handling COVID-19 in the short term, and hospitals are preparing for a surge.

Hospitals have therapeutics now that are allowing for COVID-19 patients to have shorter hospital stays, including remdesivir, California Hospital Association President Carmela Coyle said in Wednesday’s press conference. Fewer patients are being put on ventilators. Doctors and nurses have learned a lot about how to care for COVID-positive patients, according to Coyle.

The surge involves balancing caring for COVID patients with caring for everyone else, Coyle said.

“The best way that we can expand and have as much capacity as we need to treat COVID-positive and patients with COVID-19 disease is to make certain that we’re stopping the spread of the infection in the first place,” Coyle said. “And that is all about masks, and social distancing, and hand hygiene.”

Doing those things helps doctors and nurses, and helps to save lives, Coyle said.

Each of the state’s 416 hospitals has an emergency plan, Coyle said — those plans are being adjusted as more has been learned about COVID-19.

Hospitals are continuing to build inventory of personal protective equipment such as masks and gowns, as well as attempting to build up testing supplies, Coyle said. Staff are being cross-trained, such as training nurses to work in ICUs who don’t normally do so. And more space is being sought in hospitals throughout the state to treat COVID-positive patients.

Hospitals are working together to be able to decompress hospital systems in certain areas, allowing patients to be moved to hospitals with more capacity, Coyle said.

And the U.S. Health and Human Services Department is sending 191 staff members to help in California, Newsom said.


In March, the state had 1 million procedure masks and 21 million N95 masks, Newsom said. That was many more than other states had available, but that stash had been secured by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, and many of the masks had expired.

So far, the state has distributed 201 million procedure masks and 79 million N95 masks. The state has 232 million procedure masks in its current inventory, as well as 46 million N95 masks. California has also given masks to four other states to help with their needs, in partnership with FEMA — those masks are only given to other states when California’s own needs are met at certain thresholds, Newsom said.


Newsom said that he isn’t worried about “the latest tweets” when it comes to threats from the president to withhold funding from states that don’t reopen schools, as well as the vice president’s comments that states that reopen could be rewarded.

The governor said that what needs to be prioritized is safely reopening the schools. More personal protective equipment is being acquired for schools at all levels, including preschools and colleges. Both kids and teachers need to be kept safe and healthy, as well as other school staff, Newsom said. He added that he is far more worried about that than “a tweet.”

The state is allowing flexibility when it comes to in-person vs. online learning in local school districts, as well as the potential for hybrid models, Newsom said.

Newsom said that he will be delivering another coronavirus update Thursday.

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