On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced that film and TV production can resume in the region this week so long as proper protocols are in place. Department officials also revealed however that the transmission rate, a key indicator of COVID-19 progress, has continued to increase.
Last Friday, Dr. Christina Ghaly, the director of Health Services for L.A. County, noted that the “R” number, or effective transmission rate, seemed to be rising slightly. Based on modeling, Ghaly warned, “The number of ICU beds may become inadequate…DHS is watching this number on a daily basis very closely.”
At Wednesday’s county briefing, Ghaly announced that the model is now “more certain” that R has “increased again slightly and is now greater than one. At 1, every infected person passes the virus on to only one other person, and the number of those infected remains steady. Above 1, the number of those infected begins to rise.
“Because of this,” continued Ghaly, “the model predicts that the spread of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles County area is likely to increase gradually over time.”
The number of ICU beds, reported Ghaly, may become inadequate in the next 2-4 weeks. That’s an escalated time frame from the 4-week window she gave last Friday.
Ghaly emphasized that the department is working with hospitals across the county, both private and public, to help them surge ICU beds and allocate more PPE.
“I want to be clear that..the model does not make predictions based in the estimated number of people who are out of their home based on recent relaxation of the health officer orders or related to the recent protests,” said Ghaly.
Asked if the county was moving too fast with reopening given the numbers and modeling, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said she felt if “sectors open with the proper protocols, it can be done safely…But it does depend a lot on businesses doing their part.
“We’re watching to make sure that we don’t see indicators that will make us want to pause…or institute restrictions,” said Ferrer.
Ghaly explained the R in more detail.
“After the introduction of the safer at home health officer orders,” said Ghaly last week, “the R fell rapidly from initially around 3 to 3.5 to around 1.”
“R does appear now to be greater than 1 and slightly uptrending,” she continued on Friday. “If transmission has indeed increased, then the model predicts that we will have a continued increase in hospital patient volume over the next 2-4 weeks. And we would anticipate seeing that trend [become noticeable] over the coming 1-2 weeks.”
“Even with this trend,” Dr. Ghaly continued, “the number of hospital beds and ventilators does appear to be adequate to meet the demand of COVID-19 patients over the next 4 weeks.
But, she warned, “The number of ICU beds may become inadequate in 4 weeks. DHS is watching this number on a daily basis very closely.”
This news comes after Los Angeles County was on Monday placed on a state “watch list” due to of concerns over a rise in the transmission rate.