Photo by Kit Karzen

The woman leading Los Angeles County’s fight against Coronavirus has received death threats over her actions but Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the ugly behavior will not change how the county approaches the health crisis.

Ferrer, the Director of Public Health for Los Angeles County, released a statement Monday describing the first instance as occurring on Facebook.

“In my case, the death threats started last month, during a COVID-19 Facebook Live public briefing when someone very casually suggested that I should be shot. I didn’t immediately see the message, but my husband did, my children did, and so did my colleagues,” she said.

She said these threats have been levied against public health officials across the country and one reason she took a prominent role in the public emergency was to shield other employees from these kind of attacks.

“It is deeply worrisome to imagine that our hardworking infectious disease physicians, nurses, epidemiologists and environmental health specialists or any of our other team members would have to face this level of hatred,” she said.

She said her office had previously issued a “no comment” statement on the question of threats but she decided to issue a statement acknowledging the situation after confirming the threats to NPR.

She said health officials understood the anger and frustration felt by people impacted by restrictions on movement or economic activity but that public health officials were acting in the best interest of the entire county.

“Our job and our calling is to keep as many people as safe as possible during this pandemic,” she said. “We did not create this virus. We come into work every single day prepared to do our very best, prepared to work with everyone, with all of our partners, to try to continue to contain this pandemic and to try to continue to minimize the loss of life. And while frustration boils over in our communities as people are done with this virus, this virus is not done with us.”

Her statements were issued during the first weekly briefing provided by the county. Officials were providing daily updates for the first few months of the crisis and they recently pulled back to three briefings per week. Starting this week, the county is providing one weekly briefing to accompany what will be daily emails with updates about case counts and recovery measurements.

The county confirmed 18 new deaths and 2,571 new cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Monday. Thirteen people who died were over the age of 65 years old and four people who died were between the ages of 41 and 65 years old. Seventeen people had underlying health conditions including nine people over the age of 65 years old and four people between the ages of 41 to 65 years old. One death was reported by Pasadena.

Officials said that despite a growing number of positive cases, hospitalizations remained steady with enough capacity to handle future cases.

“The number of new cases of COVID-19 requiring care in our hospitals, each day remains constant and has been constant now for several weeks in terms of the hospital system, the number of hospital beds and the number of ventilators in Los Angeles County appears to be adequate to meet the projected demand for those services for caring for COVID-19 patients over the next four weeks,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. “The number of ICU beds is somewhat more limited. In part this is because of our increased need to take care of patients who are showing up for care who have conditions and illnesses and injuries, other than COVID-19.”

Officials said the standing advice regarding hand washing, social distancing and wearing a mask remains in place but Ferrer said she hoped more conversation would occur about rebounding as a community.

“We would love for the discourse to shift and for us to really spend our time talking about how together we make our way through our recovery journey and we all work together to save lives,” said Ferrer.

Santa Monica had 360 cases as of Monday.