Coronavirus testing in area with homelessness

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Health Services Ambulatory Network partner Northeast Valley Health conduct testing in an area where several people experiencing homelessness have tested positive, April 4, 2020.

Citing in part a resolution of reporting backlogs, Los Angeles County announced a daily record high of 91 coronavirus deaths today, along with more than 4,800 new cases, while warning parents that children can also be infected and have experienced increases in hospitalizations.

The 91 deaths included six fatalities that were actually announced Tuesday by health officials in Pasadena and Long Beach. County public health director Barbara Ferrer said the elevated number was in part the result of a backlog in reporting.

Ferrer also announced 4,825 new cases in the county, but said about 2,000 over those cases can be attributed to a backlog in results from the state's laboratory reporting system that occurred between last Thursday and Sunday.

The new numbers pushed the county's overall coronavirus death toll to 4,516, while the number of cases rose to 183,383.

Ferrer noted that the county has confirmed more than 13,000 cases among children aged 17 and younger, and while hospitalizations among children have been relatively low throughout the pandemic, there has been a recent increase, particularly among those aged 12-17.

"It's a very small number of children overall ... (but) hospitalizations among children of all ages has been increasing since April," she said. "As a reminder to our young people, they do need to abide by the public health directives that are in place. I know it's a difficult sacrifice, especially for our children and for our teens who are desperate to spend time with their friends.

Despite the large numbers of cases and deaths reported Wednesday, health officials offered a generally positive portrayal of key statistics, with the county's seven-day average positivity rate holding around 8.5%, and new hospital admissions leveling off, albeit at a higher levels than ideal.

As of Wednesday, there were 2,045 people hospitalized due to coronavirus, according to the county. Ferrer said the availability of intensive care unit beds and ventilators has been holding steady since April.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county's health services director, also reported positive news in terms of the rate of transmission of the virus, or the average number of people a coronavirus-positive patient infects. As of Wednesday, that average was 0.92, below the benchmark of 1.

Ghaly said the lowering of that average and the slowing of new hospital admissions coincides with the tightening of health orders earlier this month, and continued adherence to infection-control measures is critical to continue the trends.

"This is good news but one that we need to treat with caution and maintain those behaviors,'' Ghaly said.

Ferrer echoed that sentiment, saying that despite the desire to act as if the virus does not exist, taking precautions is still critical to slow its spread.

"I know that we're all eager and anxious to see our lives return to normal," she said. "We want our children to be back at school, seeing their friends, making new cherished memories with their friends. We do have the tools at hand to make this a reality in the future, but we need compliance with our directives, so please continue to wear a face covering and do not gather with people you don't live with."

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