Economy: Retail sales have fallen through the floor during the crisis. Local governments including Los Angeles County and the City of Santa Monica have said they will have to make cuts to services and jobs in order to stay solvent. SMDP image.

Local coronavirus cases have reached 100, increasing just 14% over the last week as residents stay home as much as possible.

Across Los Angeles County, new cases are flattening as the number of deaths continues to rise. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced a record 53 deaths Thursday, bringing the death toll to 455 and the mortality rate to 4.2%, up 1.3% from last week. Nearly 9 in 10 individuals who have died had underlying health conditions.

“All of us (need) to work together to make it possible for those who have underlying health issues to remain in their homes,” she said.

Ferrer reported 399 new cases across the county for a total of 10,854, a number on par with new daily cases reported in late March. New confirmed cases peaked April 4 at 711 individuals. She said other jurisdictions such as New York City and Seattle have also seen deaths continue to rise after cases have leveled off.

“Sometimes people can be in the hospital for a few days before they actually pass away … which would explain this lag,” she said.

Over the last month, 2.7 million Californians have filed for unemployment, nearly 7% of the population, Gov. Gavin Newsom said at a news conference Wednesday. He announced $125 million in unemployment aid for undocumented immigrants, who make up 10% of California’s workforce but are ineligible for federal aid.

The economic effects of the shutdown have also slashed government revenues, forcing municipalities across the country to cut jobs and services. The city of Santa Monica is offering buyouts to employees and considering which services to scale back amid a projected $226 million budget gap through fiscal year 2021-2022 caused by a steep drop in sales, parking and hotel tax revenue.

Officials are cautiously predicting that some parts of the orders could be relaxed in late May or early June, once new cases start to fall and testing is widely available. More than 70,000 county residents have been tested so far.

Ferrer said Wednesday that retail stores might be the first businesses to reopen in L.A. County, with a certain number of customers allowed inside at any given time so people can keep their distance from each other. Closed trails and bike paths may be reopened as one-way paths.

Art exhibitions and performances may start up again, but with fewer or no visitors or spectators, she said. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday that the city will continue to put a moratorium on large events for several months.

While the pandemic has devastated the economy, officials are still primarily focused on the rising death toll, especially the higher mortality rates among black residents and people living in institutional settings.

Of the 390 individuals who died that the county has demographic information for, 16% were African American, 17% were Asian, 33% were Latino, 31% were white and 3% were some other race. Ferrer said the county is working to address the higher death rate among African Americans, who make up 9% of the county population, by improving access to testing, treatment and accurate information about coronavirus in black communities.

Thirty-five percent of the 455 people who have died after contracting coronavirus resided in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Ferrer said. The county is investigating nearly 2,000 cases across 209 institutional settings, including six homeless shelters. Seven shelter residents and 26 unsheltered people have tested positive.

The Department of Public Health has hired new staffers to provide additional support to nursing homes and is trying to distribute enough personal protective equipment for employees.

“We had to put more people on the teams, so when we do an investigation we’re able to not just do daily phone calls … but actually visit nursing homes where there have been outbreaks,” she said.

She said the county has also been working with nursing homes to transfer residents with COVID-19 to other care facilities.

More than 1,500 people are currently hospitalized, Ferrer said. About a third are in the ICU, and one in five patients are on ventilators.


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