Los Angeles County officials announced 29 deaths Wednesday, setting a record for the most number of deaths reported in the county in a single day.
The death toll now stands at 198 and the mortality rate has risen again to 2.6%, said Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health. Ferrer also confirmed 620 new cases Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in L.A. County to 7,530. More than 36,000 people have been tested to date and public testing sites around the company are now available to anyone with coronavirus symptoms.
“We have weeks to go before we lift any of our health officer orders,” Ferrer said. “Please know that what we’re doing right now is saving lives.”
In Santa Monica, the number of cases rose by four Wednesday. Over the last week, cases have risen by roughly 50% from 56 last Thursday to 81. The city ranks 10th in per capita cases among all communities in the county, City Manager Rick Cole said Wednesday.
“That probably reflects both our demographics and their access to healthcare compared to cities that are lagging in testing,” Cole said in a Zoom town hall hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Kevin McKeown said during the town hall the Santa Monica appears to be flattening the curve compared to L.A. County as a whole. Cases in Santa Monica were climbing rapidly through the end of March but in April started to increase by three to four per day, except for two days that saw six new cases each.
“We’re managing to not let this explode as exponentially as it might have,” McKeown said.
Of the 131 institutional settings the county is investigating, three are in Santa Monica: The Manor, The Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica and Beachwood Post-Acute and Rehab.
Officials have not released information on whether any people who have died after contracting coronavirus lived in Santa Monica, but McKeown said Wednesday that the county has not notified the city of any deaths.
Of the 29 county residents whose deaths were reported Wednesday, 17 were older than 65 and 16 of those elderly individuals had underlying health conditions. Seven individuals were between 41 and 65 and one person was between 18 and 40. All but one, an individual between 41 and 65, had underlying conditions.
More than 1,700 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized at some point. Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services said the county has 1,548 open hospital beds, including 247 ICU beds. The Navy ship Mercy is also providing 1,000 beds for non-coronavirus patients and the L.A. Surge Hospital will bring more than 250 beds for COVID-19 patients later this month.
There are 1,010 available ventilators, another 150 in a county stockpile and 170 being refurbished, Ghaly said Tuesday.
Cole said that the four Westside hospitals, including Providence St. John’s Health Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, have not yet seen a significant increase in acute coronavirus cases.
“They’ve cleared out ICUs to make room for a wave, but have not seen that uptick,” Cole said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state had secured 41.5 million N95 masks to distribute throughout the state and is sinking more than $1.4 billion into additional personal protective equipment for essential workers such as grocery store employees and homeless outreach teams in addition to healthcare personnel.
Two of the more than 600 new cases confirmed in L.A. County Wednesday are among the homeless population, which now has a total of 12 confirmed cases. Two homeless shelter employees and two residents have tested positive.
Heidi Marston, interim executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the agency is working to secure 15,000 hotel and motel rooms across the county to house people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic as part of the state’s “Project Roomkey” effort. There will be 24-hour security at each site and residents will be served three meals a day in their rooms, she said.
Project Roomkey, which aims to have more than 1,200 rooms online by next week, follows earlier efforts by the city of Los Angeles to convert 13 recreational centers into temporary shelters, with a combined capacity of more than 550 beds.
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.
Local officials will by Friday order Santa Monica residents and workers to wear masks in public at all times following an order from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti requiring people to wear masks. Cole said police officers will try to encourage people to comply with the order before resorting to citations.