African Americans have slightly higher COVID-19 death rate than other races, ethnicities: Public Health

Los Angeles County's coronavirus mortality rate rose to 2.4% on Tuesday as county officials reported an additional 22 deaths, bringing the death count to 169.

Of the newly reported deaths, 16 individuals were over the age of 65 with underlying health conditions. The remaining six were between the ages of 41 and 65, five of which had underlying health conditions.

For the first time, county officials reported preliminary information about the races and ethnicities of those who have died from COVID-19, but specified that they are still working to gather that information for 43% of those who have died.

Of the 93 individuals included in the findings, 19% were Asian-Americans, 17% were African-Americans, 28% were Latinx, 27% were Caucasian and 9% were of another race, according to Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

County officials said that from their initial data, African-Americans are believed to have a slightly higher mortality rate than other ethnicities.

“When we look at these numbers by the total population of each group, African Americans have a slightly higher rate of death than other races and ethnicities, and we will be watching this closely as we gather more information about the remaining 43% of people who have passed away,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer encouraged medical providers, facilities and labs to collect and report race and ethnicity data so that they can better understand the burden of the disease across different populations.

The county also reported an additional 550 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county's total to 6,910 confirmed cases.

The county said that more than 35,300 people have been tested for COVID-19 in the county, with about a 14% positive rate.

Ferrer also said that roughly 20,000 individuals have received negative lab results, adding that they hope to have specific data about the negative results sometime later this week.

Ferrer conceded that while testing has been increasing across the county, data indicates that wealthier communities have much better access to the tests.

"People who are living in wealthier communities have had, in fact, better access to testing and have been tested more than people living in communities where income levels are much lower," she said. "We will be producing a complete report on what we know about access to lab testing by early next week.''

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Echoing guidance from the White House, Ferrer on Monday said people should try to avoid leaving their homes altogether for the next two weeks as the pandemic is expected to worsen across the country. 

"If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether," she said.

RELATED: Health officials advice to avoid grocery stores, pharmacies as peak of COVID-19 pandemic looms

Public Health advised residents against leaving their homes for groceries or medications, encouraging residents to arrange to have them delivered instead, if necessary.

Public Health continues to stress to the public that while a majority of those who have died from COVID-19 in the county had underlying health conditions, not everyone does. Residents are urged to continue to take the necessary precautions in order to protect themselves from the virus.

Health officials say that social distancing remains our best defense against the virus, and all residents are instructed to abide by current measures in place across the state. Social distancing is not only about preventing the illness itself, but rather, slowing the rate at which people get sick. 

On April 3, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it would be recommending people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

The use of face coverings is believed to help slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus, without knowing it, from transmitting it to others.

The face coverings can be made at home from common materials at low cost, and the CDC has instructions on how to make them listed on its website

This comes as more evidence is emerging that coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms. Last week, the CDC changed how it was defining risk of infection for Americans, saying anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not.

RELATED: Asymptomatic coronavirus cases appear to be on the rise in China, report says

In accordance with new guidelines from the CDC, Public Health said that anyone who begins to experience symptoms must contact those they were in contact with up to 48 hours prior to having symptoms in order for them to self-isolate.

Public Health requests that anyone who experiences any symptoms of COVID-19 to self-isolate for the 14-day quarantine period in order to help slow the spread.

According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should call their healthcare provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken.

RELATED:, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates. 

Public Health has issued the following guidance during this time of increased spread:

"If you are mildly sick, stay home for at least seven days or until 72 hours after being fever free, whichever is longer. Call your doctor if you are concerned and/or your symptoms worsen. Individuals who are elderly, have underlying health conditions or pregnant should consider contacting their providers earlier when they are sick."

Click here for a list of locations of confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County.