Lab county coronavirus lab testing

Lab testing at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

Los Angeles County passed the milestone of 15,000 COVID-19 deaths today, and more than a third of those have come after Christmas.

Today, Public Health confirmed 269 new deaths and 10,537 new coronavirus cases.

There are 6,881 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized, and 24% are in the ICU. This is the first time since Dec. 29 that daily hospitalizations decreased to less than 7,000 patients. But while that number is down, health care workers and ICU capacity remain overwhelmed, with the Southern California Region continuing to have 0% available ICU capacity and remaining under the Regional Stay at Home Order.

"I do want to emphasize that the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far too high,' said Paul Simon, the county Department of Public Health's chief science officer. "So while there's reason to be hopeful, we all must remain vigilant and continue to be disciplined, wearing masks, physically distancing when outside the home, avoiding gatherings and washing our hands frequently."

 Of the 269 new deaths reported today, 82 people were over the age of 80; 85 were between 65 and 79; 52 were between 50 and 64; 15 were between 30 and 49; and one was between 18 and 29. Nine deaths each were reported by the cities of Long Beach and Pasadena.

Eight new cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS- C) are also being reported by Public Health. This brings the total cases of MIS- C in L.A. County to 62 children, one of whom has died.

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MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19. Symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.

Officials also urged people to remain patient with efforts to administer vaccines, again pointing to a shortage of doses on hand and continued uncertainty about future allocations. He noted that the county's large-scale vaccination sites that opened this week -- each capable of administering 4,000 shots per day -- will be operating at much lower capacity next week, likely in the 2,000 to 2,500 range.

The county expects to receive about 143,900 more doses of vaccine next week. However, since people need to receive two doses of the medication, spaced three to four weeks apart, the bulk of the vaccine coming next week will be used to administer second doses to people who have already received the first shot.

If the county's weekly allotment doesn't dramatically improve beyond the current average of about 150,000, "the vaccination effort will likely extend well into 2022," Simon said.

He said if the county can get its allocation increased to 500,000 per week, "we would have the potential to reach 75% of the adult population in the county, or 6 million adults, by mid-summer."

He said the state is upgrading its vaccine-appointment website, to which the county system is linked, so it should operate more smoothly as early as next week. County residents trying to make appointments should use the county website vaccinatelacounty.com.

The county also has a call-in reservation system, which is available from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 833-540-0473. But that line should be used only by people unable to use the website, since call volumes are already exceedingly high, Simon said.

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