L.A. County reports 440 new cases of COVID-19

Los Angeles County officials reported 18 more deaths from COVID-19 and 440 additional cases on Sunday, raising the countywide totals to 19,528 cases and 913 deaths.   

Ninety-three percent of people who died had underlying health conditions, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.  

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"The most difficult part of the COVID-19 pandemic is losing people to the virus. To all of you who have lost loved ones, we are deeply sorry," Barbara Ferrer, the county's director of public health, said Sunday.

"As we have more information about who is dying, we are reminded that the work ahead requires that we address issues of disproportionality that result in higher rates of death among African Americans, Latin, and Asians as well as residents living in poverty.

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Ensuring access to testing, early treatment, and care, and economic support among those communities at higher risk of devastating outcomes associated with COVID-19 is essential."  

Meanwhile, high temperatures put a strain on beach and park restrictions enacted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus for the second-straight day.

Officials are reminding the public that beaches and parks remain closed throughout Los Angeles for the weekend.

"These closures are part of protecting the public's health and helping avoid a steep rise in COVID-19 cases like the country has seen in NewYork City. Currently, LA County is experiencing a more gradual increase in cases as a result of the stay at home orders and physical distancing,"

Santa Monica officials said. "Residents can go outside for a walk or to a local park, but everyone is encouraged to stay close to home as much as possible."  

Officials with the Los Angeles Police Department and the Santa Monica Police Department said they were not expecting to issue many citations to those who disobeyed the order, but were focusing on education.

Police in the beach cities south of LAX said much the same, although Manhattan Beach police reported issuing some citations to people who refused to leave the beach.  

Much larger crowds were seen at beaches in Orange County, where the public was not strictly prohibited from visiting the sand.  

As of Sunday, more than 114,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the county, with 14% testing positive, Ferrer said.  

Information about race and ethnicity was available for 837 of the 913 deaths. Of those, 37% occurred among Latinx residents, 28% among white residents, 18% among Asian residents, 14% among African American residents, 1% among Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents, and 1% among residents identifying with other races.  

African Americans continue to have the highest rate of death for COVID-19 when compared to other groups at 13 deaths per 100,000 people,

Ferrer said. The mortality rate for Latinx is 9.5; for Asians, the rate is 7.5; and for whites, the rate is 5.5. Individuals living in lower-income communities are three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than individuals living in wealthier communities, with the death rate of 16.5 deaths per 100,000 people in communities where 30% to 100% of residents are living in poverty compared to the death rate of 5.3 per 100,000 people in communities where less than 10% of residents are living in poverty.  

As of Sunday, 23% of those who tested positive have been hospitalized at some point during their illness.  

The continuing increases in cases and deaths in nursing homes prompted the county's health officer Friday to issue a revised order applicable to all licensed "congregate health care," or long-term care, facilities, Ferrer said.  

The order bars non-essential visitors to such facilities, allowing only essential workers to enter.  

"It suspends all communal dining and activities ... to make sure that there's ample distancing among the residents who reside there," Ferrer said.

"Staff will be required to always wear surgical masks and to use personal protective equipment when it's appropriate. And residents will also need to wear surgical masks or cloth face coverings when they're outside of their personal room."  

She said the increased testing that will begin Monday is also part of the new health order, but those plans were announced previously due to the continued increase of cases and the knowledge that people who are unknowingly infected can spread the disease even if they have no symptoms.  

The increased testing of all nursing home residents and workers, regardless of symptoms, is being done in conjunction with the city of Los Angeles.

Ferrer said facilities with the most severe outbreaks will be given top priority, but all facilities will get the increased tests.