Coronavirus has become the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County, officials said Thursday.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there have been an average of 44 coronavirus deaths per day over the last two weeks. During flu season, an average of five people in Los Angeles County die from the flu each day, Ferrer said. On any given day, eight people die of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 31 die of heart disease.

“These are (typically) the leading causes of death across the county,” she said. “COVID-19 has now become the leading cause of death. These numbers are a stark reminder for all of us of the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19.”

Nearly 800 county residents have died of COVID-19 since the outbreak started, with 68 deaths reported Thursday. About 4 in 10 individuals who died of coronavirus were residents of skilled nursing facilities and similar institutions, Ferrer said.

Nine deaths have occurred at two skilled nursing facilities in Santa Monica, county officials reported Thursday.

Six patients of the Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica and three patients of Beachwood Post-Acute & Rehab Center died of COVID-19.

Twenty-one patients and 10 staff have tested positive for coronavirus at the Rehabilitation Center. Beachwood has 20 confirmed cases among patients and nine among employees.

Additionally, four residents of The Manor, a residential care facility for adults with mental illnesses, and two patients at Ocean Pointe Healthcare Center have tested positive.

Across L.A. County, there are 3,343 cases across 286 institutional settings, and 26 skilled nursing facilities have reported 20 or more cases, Ferrer said Thursday.

It is unknown how many of the 66 staff and residents in the four local institutions with outbreaks permanently reside in Santa Monica and therefore count toward its official tally of cases or deaths. City of Santa Monica officials said earlier this week that they had not been notified of any deaths among residents.

Beachwood administrator Anton Novitsky said the facility started restricting visitors to essential medical staff and screening everyone who entered the facility in early March. Surgical masks were issued to each worker who entered the facility and residents displaying symptoms were tested.

On April 1, Beachwood designated its second floor as a COVID-19 unit and began issuing face shields, isolation gowns and N95 masks to workers in the isolation ward, Novitsky said.

A spokesperson for the Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica said the facility had implemented federal and state guidelines regarding COVID-19 to protect its employees and patients.

“We are working closely with public health authorities and will continue to work diligently in implementing our COVID-19 infection control policies and procedures, including restricting outside visitors, contracting with an outside service for an in-depth disinfecting of the center, providing personal protective equipment to our employees along with our residents when they leave their individual rooms, and numerous other initiatives,” a spokesperson said.

The Manor did not respond to a request for comment, and Ocean Pointe could not be immediately reached for comment.

On Thursday, Ferrer announced 1,081 confirmed cases of coronavirus throughout the county, bringing the total to 17,508. More than 1,800 people are hospitalized, with nearly one-third in the ICU and one-fifth on ventilators.

She said the high number of cases she has reported this week primarily reflect increased testing capacity — between 10,000 and 12,000 individuals can now be tested each day in L.A. County — as well as a backlog of test results that were not previously reported.

Ferrer reiterated that the county could see a surge in cases and deaths if it lifts its Safer at Home order. Once the county is able to relax parts of the order, people will need to continue physically distancing themselves from each other.

“If at any point we relax physical distancing requirements and more people are out and about and in contact with each other, there will be more spread of COVID-19,” she said.

In Santa Monica, five new cases were confirmed Thursday and the city now has 144 cases. Nearly 16 out of every 10,000 residents are confirmed to have COVID-19, although an antibody study the county released earlier this week suggests that the true number of residents with coronavirus could be much higher.

The number of cases in Santa Monica has risen 44% over the last week after increasing only 19% the week before. Some of the new cases confirmed this week can be attributed to the backlog of test results.

Ferrer said the county has seen a dramatic increase in cases among people experiencing homelessness, mostly because of a large outbreak at Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles. Of the 100 people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive, 55 lived in eight separate shelters and are now in quarantine.

This article was updated April 24 at 9:15 a.m.

madeleine@smdp.com

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2 Comments

  1. People are not wearing masks and not social distancing. While walking people are running right next to me..one man was spitting and running on sam vicente another was coughing and not wearing mask or covering his face..why dont police issue tickets or citations

  2. @Helen…
    Did you bother reading this article the only people who have did in Santa Monica are elderly people in nursing home who are normally severely compromised. No healthy adults have died in Santa Monica…. take a deep breath and relax or you are going to drive yourself crazy…

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