Los Angeles County’s public health director said Tuesday that residents should skip grocery shopping this week if they have enough food at home.
Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, clarified a “plea” she gave the previous day for people to avoid grocery stores and pharmacies after announcing 550 new coronavirus cases throughout the county, three of which were in Santa Monica. There are now 6,910 cases in the county and 77 in Santa Monica.
“It wasn’t an order, it was more of a “please do this for everyone’s sake,” Ferrer said. “All of us should avoid shopping as much as possible. We’re at almost 7,000 cases here in L.A. County and that really means we have significant COVID-19 circulating in our neighborhoods.”
Ferrer announced 22 deaths Tuesday, bringing the death toll in L.A. County to 169. Of the 22 people whose deaths were confirmed Tuesday, 16 were older than 65 and had underlying health conditions. The other six were between 41 and 65 and five of them had underlying conditions.
The mortality rate of coronavirus in the county has crept up to 2.4%, Ferrer said.
For the first time, Ferrer released preliminary information about the race of people who have died after L.A. City Council member Herb Wesson and other advocates urged the county to quantify racial disparities in testing, health outcomes and deaths. Several cities and states across the country have noted that black people are being infected with and dying from coronavirus at disproportionate rates.
Of the 93 deaths for which the county has demographic information, 28% are Latino, 27% are white, 19% are Asian, 17% are African American and 9% were reported as some other race, Ferrer said. African Americans have a slightly higher rate of death than other races, she said.
Ferrer said the county will report more demographic information on deaths, infections and testing to better understand racial and socioecomic disparities at play in the outbreak.
She also acknowledged that wealthy communities have had much better access to testing than poor communities, promising that the county would produce a report on access to testing next week. More than 35,000 county residents had been tested as of Tuesday.
On Monday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that any L.A. County resident with coronavirus symptoms can be tested at 13 sites across the county via coronavirus.lacity.org. Previously, only people older than 65 or with chronic health conditions could be tested.
Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services, said Tuesday that the county has 1,418 open hospital beds, including 258 ICU beds. The bed counts do not include the U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy, which has 1,000 beds for non-coronavirus patients, or the L.A. Surge Hospital, which will add more than 250 beds for COVID-19 patients when it opens later this month.
There are 1,010 available ventilators, another 150 in a county stockpile and 170 being refurbished, Ghaly said.
Ferrer said 869 people are currently hospitalized, including 132 individuals in the ICU. Forty-three percent of hospitalized cases are older than 65.
The county is investigating cases at 121 institutional settings. Thirty-seven of the 169 people who have died after contracting coronavirus were residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Ferrer said.
Ferrer said there are 30 confirmed coronavirus cases in jails, 10 cases in a state prison within the county and two cases at a juvenile detention facility.
Two staffers and one resident of homeless shelters have tested positive, she said.
In Santa Monica, The Manor, The Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica and Beachwood Post-Acute and Rehab have at least one confirmed coronavirus case and are under investigation.
To slow the spread of coronavirus locally, Santa Monica public schools are closed indefinitely and county beaches, beach bike paths and public trails will close through at least April 19. The city’s public buildings, nonessential businesses, playgrounds, Santa Monica Pier and beach parking lots are closed through the end of April.
The city of Santa Monica fenced off Palisades Park after people continued to walk and exercise in the park last weekend. Other city parks are still open, and Santa Monica Farmers Markets remain open with enhanced physical distancing controls.