Press-Telegram (Long Beach)

L.A. County at 22,000 fatalities in latest count

Officials also cite more MIS-C cases in children, huge drop in hospitaliz­ations

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Los Angeles County reported 1,823 new cases of COVID-19 and 98 additional deaths on Saturday, along with 16 additional cases of multisyste­m inflammato­ry syndrome in children, bringing the total cases of MIS-C in L.A. County to 116 children, which includes the death of one child.

The number of coronaviru­s patients in L.A. County hospitals has fallen to 1,176, according to state health officials, with 361 in intensive care. That’s a huge drop from the peak of the winter surge in early January, when the number was over 8,000, and the first time the number dipped below 1,200 since Nov. 16.

Of the 98 new deaths, 36 were over the age of 80, 34 were between 65 and 79, 21 were between 50 and 64 and six were between 30 and 49. One death was reported by the city of Pasadena, which has its own health department.

Saturday’s numbers brought the county’s totals to 1,201,866 cases and 22,000 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

All 116 children with MIS-C were hospitaliz­ed, and 41% were treated in the ICU. Of the children with MIS-C, 29% were under the age of 5, 43% were between 5 and 11, and 28% were between 12 and 20. Latino/Latinx children account for 75% of the reported cases.

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. Those who believe their child is displaying MIS-C symptoms were advised to contact their primary care or an urgent care provider. Those without a primary care provider can dial 2-1-1 and L.A. County will help connect them to one.

“Today’s grim milestone (surpassing 20,000 deaths) reminds us of the human toll of this pandemic and how actions affect cases, hospitaliz­ations and deaths several weeks from now,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “As we move into spring and temperatur­es in Los Angeles County warm up, many people will be out taking advantage of our beautiful county.

I ask you do so responsibl­y by avoiding large gatherings and crowds, always wearing your mask, and at this time, postponing non-essential travel.”

County health officials also said that testing results were available for nearly 5,885,000 people, with 19% testing positive. Saturday’s daily test positivity rate is 1.9%.

The county’s daily update did not include the latest figures from Long Beach and Pasadena, which operate independen­t health department­s. An additional death raised Pasadena’s death toll to 320; six new cases bought the city’s total to 10,983. Long Beach did not update Saturday; as of Thursday, the city reported 51,475 cases and 863 deaths.

Meanwhile, in what county officials hope is the beginning of the end of severe COVID-19 vaccine shortages, the county next week will receive its largest vaccine allotment to date, with nearly two-thirds of the supply being used to administer first doses.

Dr. Paul Simon, the county Department of Public Health’s chief science officer, said the county will receive 312,000 doses of vaccine next week, including 53,700 doses of the newly authorized singledose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Of the allotment, 62% will be used for first doses — reversing a recent trend of most shots being reserved for people in need of their second dose.

As of Friday, 2,415,460 doses of vaccine have been administer­ed in the county, Simon said. That includes 814,593 second doses, meaning that many people have been fully vaccinated.

Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city of Los Angeles has surpassed a half-million doses, with 511,698 shots administer­ed as of Friday at cityrun sites. The city has given out approximat­ely 96% of its received supply, Garcetti said. The total doses represent more than 20% of the total vaccinatio­ns administer­ed in L.A. County.

The increase in doses is welcome news in a county with increasing­ly large numbers of residents eligible to receive shots. Roughly 1.7 million essential workers, including teachers, became eligible this week, on top of the health care workers and residents aged 65 and over who were already eligible.

And starting March 15, Simon said the county will adhere to new state guidance that expands eligibilit­y to everyone aged 16 to 64 with an underlying health condition that makes them susceptibl­e to severe illness or death from COVID-19.

Simon said county officials, however, are still awaiting more guidance from the state on how to determine who will fall into that eligibilit­y category.

“We’re a bit concerned because, you know, there are a number of health conditions on the list, and in addition, at the end of the list is a category of ‘disability’ which would allow someone to have eligibilit­y, if the disability gets in the way, for example, of accessing medical services for COVID. And there are some other criteria, but I think that needs to be defined a little more clearly.”

He said that ideally, people with such disabiliti­es or health conditions would be able to get the vaccine from their own doctors.

“At a large community (vaccine site), where people are presenting and we don’t know anything about their medical history, it’s challengin­g,” Simon said. “I think we might have to rely on a letter from the provider, of course, those letters could be forged.”

Health officials on Thursday issued another warning against leisure travel, in light of the upcoming spring break, stressing that anyone who travels out of the area is still required to quarantine for 10 days when they return to Los Angeles County.

“We may just be weeks away from reducing transmissi­on in L.A. County enough so that additional reopenings are permitted,” Ferrer said in a statement Thursday. “However, with increased case numbers in other states, and more circulatin­g variants of concern, spring travel can lead to another surge that frankly would be almost impossible to tolerate. Travel increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. To avoid this, please postpone travel and continue doing your part to slow the spread so that our recovery journey isn’t sidelined.”

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