Coronavirus deaths reached a grim milestone in Los Angeles County on Thursday, May 21, crossing the 2,000 threshold, but the county’s public health director said all indicators show stay-at-home and other restrictions are effectively slowing the virus’ spread.
Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, announced 46 new deaths due to COVID-19, although six of those fatalities were confirmed Wednesday by health officials in Long Beach and Pasadena. Long Beach announced three additional deaths Thursday afternoon, while Pasadena added two.
The new deaths lifted the countywide total to 2,021.
Ferrer also announced another 1,204 cases of the virus, while Long Beach and Pasadena combined to add 101 more, lifting the county’s overall total to 42,138. Ferrer noted that roughly 76% of all positive cases in the county have been among people between 18 and 65.
“This is the age group that makes up the majority of our workforce,” Ferrer said. “So as more people are going back to work, it’s an important reminder that people at the workplace may be infected, even if they aren’t feeling sick. And we need our employers and our employees to work together to make sure that employees and customers are in an environment that’s as safe as possible.”
While the case numbers continue to go up, Ferrer stressed that key indicators tracked by the health department show that the spread of the virus is slowing. She pointed to figures released earlier this week indicating that people who test positive for the illness in the county are now infecting an average of less than one other person, down from three early in the pandemic.
“This is very good news,” she said. “And it shows that what we’re doing over the past few weeks — staying at home, the physical distancing, wearing our cloth face coverings — has resulted in a reduced number of infections from what we would have had, had we not taken any actions.”
Ferrer also pointed to serology testing results released this week, showing that 2.1% of test subjects had antibodies to the virus in their systems, indicating they had been infected at some point. That figure is down from 4.1% in test subjects just one month ago.
She also noted that the county’s seven-day average of daily deaths is 37, down 12% from the prior seven-day period. The three-day average of daily hospitalizations is 1,532, which is down 15% from the prior three days.
Ferrer said data shows local hospitals also have adequate bed space and ICU space, and they generally all have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, although some hospitals are falling short of the target number of available gowns.
“All of this … lets us know that the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices made by all of you are working,” she said. “As a community, we’ve done this together and this progress is a direct reflection of what all of you in your day-to-day lives have been able to accomplish.
“… Through our recovery journey, as we’re all out of our homes more, it may become more difficult to slow the spread, but it is far from impossible.”