Los Angeles County compiled more records relating to COVID-19 Monday, a day after it tallied 10,000 coronavirus cases in a 24-hour span for the first time ever.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer discussed the surging caseloads and recently instituted safer-at-home order, which was recently triggered as a result of the region’s Intensive Care Unit capacity, in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. But she first addressed the people who choose not to play by the rules and pose a risk of infection for essential workers like grocery store clerks, fitness trainers and other customer-based sites.

“If the person who chooses to not play by the rules is infected and asymptomatic, (then) many other people doing their very best to adhere to all the safety directives could become ill, and some could even die,” Ferrer said, noting this is an extraordinary difficult time in the COVID-19 pandemic as records continue to be set. One month ago, the test positivity rate was 5 percent. It’s now 11 percent, and Los Angeles County’s seven day average of cases from November 30 through December 6 was 7,845.

“As you can see, because of these distressing surges in cases, we know that we can expect in the weeks following alarming increases in hospitalizations and deaths. Last week, we saw the highest average daily reported cases we’ve ever experienced during this pandemic,” and from November 9 to December 4, average daily hospitalizations of people with COVID-19 increased 213%.

“What this will mean for hospitalizations and for deaths is frightening. It’s very possible that within two weeks, or even less, we could see the daily number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 at or over 4,000 patients a day,” Ferrer said. “And as a reminder, these numbers reflect actions we took in late November, and we can’t take those actions back.”

As she detailed the new restrictions for various business sectors in the region, Ferrer shared there is still capacity in the ICUs of local hospitals. The question is what will the numbers look like in two weeks.

“Currently, the Southern California region’s ICU capacity stands at 10.9%. This capacity includes both existing staff ICU bed and staffed ICU surge beds, and it excludes neonatal intensive care unit beds and pediatric intensive care unit beds,” she said, adding, “This new stay at home order is designed to protect capacity in our healthcare system for both COVID- and non-COVID patients.”

There is no doubt there is capacity in local Intensive Care Units but, at the same time, there’s a possibility they will rise in two or three weeks because hospitalizations are driven by case counts, which continue to increase, Ferrer said. “I think everyone at this point really shares with me this deep concern about how do we make sure that people understand: if the numbers don’t start to go down… then you look at what I say are horrific scenarios that end up playing out.”

The county isn’t to the point where the morgue is backed up, where it’s delaying care for people who need care but that’s a point nobody wants to be. “And we don’t have to get there,” Ferrer said before the conclusion of the call. “While we know we’re going to see significant increases for the next two to three weeks, it can turn itself around at the moment we all start getting back into the game. We don’t have to actually just say, ‘This is inevitable. We’re gonna see an overwhelmed healthcare system.’ We don’t have an overwhelmed healthcare system today. We have time, but very little to get ourselves to a place where that will not be the case in LA County. But it would take every single one of us working hard together to get that to happen.”

“On Sunday, Los Angeles County saw the highest number of COVID-19 cases of the entire pandemic and last week’s cases exceeded the entire month of October,” Santa Monica’s Emergency Operations Center Director Lindsay Call said Monday. “We all know we are in dangerous waters with rising cases during the holiday season. Let’s make the holiday spirit of 2020 all about protecting our fragile health care system and one another by staying home, not gathering, wearing face coverings, and safely supporting businesses.”

Brennon@smdp.com