Photo by Samy Neustadt

COVID-19 patients are getting younger as the county’s case count increases according to new numbers provided Monday.

Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said hospitalizations of people over 65 have declined in recent weeks while individuals between 17 and 65 are being hospitalized at an increased rate.

In a Monday announcement, officials said almost 50% of new cases occur among younger people with the most significant increase in the percentage of cases among residents between 18 and 40 years old. Hospitalizations for individuals between 18 and 40 years old have also increased from a little over 10% of hospitalized cases in April to about 25% in July.

The mortality rate for hospitalized individuals has declined slightly and Ferrer said younger patients were, as a group, more likely to survive but she said deaths also follow hospitalizations so it’s possible deaths may increase in the coming weeks.

The rate of positive test results has also grown. Ferrer said that with over a million tests reported to her department the cumulative total of positive cases is at 9%, but the seven day average of daily positivity is now at 10%.

She said the reason is simple: residents are going outside more often and failing to adhere to health warnings.

“It’s clear that after months of quarantine, combined with the reopening of many sectors in the span of several weeks, we’ve had a lot of people disregard the very practices that allowed us to slow the spread,” she said. “And unfortunately, this cannot continue. Our inability to follow the most basic infection control and distancing directives leads to serious illness, and even the death of the people we love, and the death of those who are loved by others, and the evidence is overwhelmingly clear about the impact.”

According to Ferrer, 86% of residents were remaining in their homes except for essential needs in April. That number has dropped over time and is now at 58%. She said the number of people coming into close contact with individuals outside their household has increased from 31 to 55 percent.

“What we do now, will determine where we are in three to four weeks,” she said. “And we do need to return by then to lower daily hospitalizations, less new cases and less deaths. And I know that everyone is extraordinarily tired, and they’re tired of having to deal with this virus. But I also know that this is not forever. The sooner we can all recommit to taking care of each other, the sooner we get back to creating a new normal, where we go back to work, to school, we see our friends and our extended families. And it’s not easy, but it is straightforward, avoid the three C’s: crowds, confined spaces and close contact and always wear face coverings, and physically distance, when you’re around people that are not from your household.”

She said reopening has been a double edged sword with fewer residents reporting food insecurity and a decline in the number of people reporting the virus as a threat to their fiscal security but now workplaces have become infection sites.

While county officials had feared local hospitals would run out of space, Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said the increases had been less steep than predicted. She said the County had about 1,500 beds currently available for all patients.

“This is where the numbers have been, they bounce around a little bit certainly day-to-day, but we do not see that the overall number of available beds is sharply declining at any certain trajectory and it’s something we’ll continue to monitor daily,” she said.

On Monday Public Health has confirmed 48 new deaths and 1,584 new cases of COVID-19. Thirty-three people who died were over the age of 65 years old, 13 people who died were between the ages of 41 and 65 years old, and one person who died was between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. Forty-one people had underlying health conditions including 28 people over the age of 65 years old, 12 people between the ages of 41 to 65 years old, and one person between the ages of 18 and 40 years old. One death was reported by the City of Pasadena.

Santa Monica currently has 445 cases.

editor@smdp.com