Coronavirus test tube samples

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health conducts Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 on March 19, 2020.

Los Angeles County surpassed 1 million cases of the coronavirus today, as officials reported 14,669 new cases of COVID-19 and 253 additional deaths. That brought the county's totals to 1,003,923 cases and 13,741 fatalities since the pandemic began.

The county's public health department also confirmed the first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the fast-spreading variant discovered in the United Kingdom, in an individual who recently spent time in Los Angeles County. The individual is a male who traveled to Oregon, where he is currently isolating.

The variant was confirmed by Quest Laboratories in Washington state.

Although it is the first confirmed case of the variant in Los Angeles County, public health officials here believe that the new, more contagious strain is already spreading in the community, and are continuing to test samples. 

The new strain does not make people sicker, but it is transmitted much more easily, meaning it can rapidly spread through the population.

"The presence of the U.K. variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our health care system is already severely strained with more than 7,500 people currently hospitalized," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.  "This more contagious variant makes it easier for infections to spread at worksites, at stores, and in our homes."

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Of the 238 deaths reported today excluding those in Long Beach and Pasadena -- which have their own health departments -- 81 were over the age of 80, 92 were between 65 and 79, 49 were between 50 and 64, 12 people were between 30 and 49, and four people were between the ages of 18 and 29.

The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals remained unchanged from Friday at 7,597, with 22% in the ICU. After peaking at just over 8,000, hospitalizations have been inching down in recent days.

The county has a total of about 2,500 licensed ICU beds.

But health officials have warned that hospital numbers could significantly rise again due to people who were infected over the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The county has continued to see elevated daily new case numbers, which always translate to more people being hospitalized.

Although the 1 million figure represents about one-tenth of the overall population, modeling released by the county this week estimated that as many as one-third of residents have actually been infected at some point, most likely without ever knowing it.

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