Los Angeles County public health officials reported two more people died of the novel coronavirus Saturday, March 21. There have also been 59 more confirmed cases of the virus; overall, four people have died and 351 cases have been confirmed since the pandemic first began.
The two people who died most recently were both older than 65 and had underlying health conditions, a statement said. One lived in Miracle Mile and one lived in Del Rey.
The update from county officials did not include the two most recent confirmed cases reported in Long Beach, which has its own Health Department.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who have died from COVID-19,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement, “and are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.”
The announcement came two days after Los Angeles County changed its strategy for testing for the virus.
The county’s Public Health Department sent a memo out to health care workers Thursday, March 19, that said the department “is shifting from a strategy of case containment to slowing disease transmission.”
In pursuit of that goal, the memo said, officials are now recommending health care workers only test patients for COVID-19 “when a diagnostic result will change clinical management or inform public health response.”
When the memo was distributed early Thursday, the number of reported cases countywide stood at 190. With Saturday’s update, that tally has almost doubled.
Officials said in a Saturday statement the change in direction for testing came as the number of cases rose while there was still an “absence of broad scale testing availability.”
COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms associated with the respiratory disease, which appear two-to-14 days after exposure, include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. While most people — including healthy young adults — will experience mild symptoms, the disease can be severe and possibly fatal for at-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with other health problems.
People with mild symptoms should not be tested for the virus, according to the Public Health Department.
Those who may be considered a priority for testing, “depending on clinical severity and community health relevance,” the department said in its Saturday statement, include:
- Hospitalized patients whose diagnosis may inform decisions related to infection control or medical management
- Residents and staff of long-term care facilities with COVID-19 symptoms
- Adults above age 65 and individuals with chronic medical conditions who show COVID-19 symptoms
- Residents and staff of correctional facilities and other congregate settings with COVID-19 symptoms
- Healthcare personnel who show COVID-19 symptoms
People who fall in those categories and are mildly ill, the department said, should contact their health care provider by phone to discuss the need for testing.