LOS ANGELES - The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County surpassed 100,000 on Monday as county health officials reported the highest number of daily new cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
While avoiding laying blame for the recent spike in coronavirus cases, LA health officials said that restaurants and bars continue to fall short of meeting public-safety protocols, and without a dramatic reversal in public behavior to control the virus, “we will see a lot more deaths" and possibly run short of hospital beds in a matter of weeks.
The latest statistics compiled by local health officials estimate that on average, one in every 140 people in LA County is infected with COVID-19 and capable of spreading it to others, likely without having any symptoms or even knowing they are carrying the virus.
That figure has dramatically changed from last week, when the estimate was one in every 400 people.
"What this means is that Angelenos in the activities of daily living when they go out are very likely to be in the locations or near persons who are currently infectious, and in fact a large typical store is likely to have multiple infectious persons enter the shop every day," Dr. Roger Lewis, who leads the county's statistical modeling efforts, said.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county's health services director, noted the "stark change" in hospitalizations over the past week, with more than 1,700 people currently hospitalized, up from an average of about 1,400 just two weeks ago. She said if that trend continues, the county could quickly run out of intensive-care unit beds, forcing hospitals to adjust operations and create additional ICU space.
She noted that given the 14-day incubation period of the virus, even if the spread stopped immediately, uncounted numbers of people have already been infected and will impact the health system in the coming weeks.
"The rising patient volume in our hospitals will likely fill all of the intensive care unit beds that are currently available," she said.
Lewis said the problem will go beyond just ICU beds.
"The expected increase in hospitalizations, assuming the increase in (transmission rates) continues ... suggest that we are at risk of running out of hospital beds if we don't take steps to increase that capacity within the next two to three weeks," Lewis said.
He stressed that many of the people who will need those beds in coming weeks "are people who have already been exposed."
The warnings came on a day the county announced a daily record 2,903 new cases of the coronavirus, pushing the total over the six-figure mark, reaching 100,772. The county also announced another 22 deaths, bringing the countywide total to 3,326.
With test results now available for more than 1 million individuals, 9% are testing positive in the county. The seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% two weeks ago to 8.4% as of Monday.
Some officials have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but county officials said repeatedly in recent days that the metrics clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Health officials acknowledged the problem of quarantine fatigue, noting that residents are anxious to get back to normal life and may see the reopening of businesses across the county as a sign the virus is disappearing -- leading to a lack of social distancing and a failure to wear face coverings.
Ferrer said that problem played out over the past two weeks, noting that the weekend of June 20, roughly 500,000 people visited bars and nightlife spots.
Responding to the surge, Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered bars to close in Los Angeles County and several additional counties due to the rising spread of COVID-19.
Shortly after the governor made his announcement, the county put out their own statement saying all bars, breweries, brewpubs, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms in LA County will be required to close unless they are offering sit-down dine-in meals. Bar areas within restaurants were also ordered to close.
Ferrer said restaurants and bars continued over the weekend struggling to fully adhere to all of the safety protocols for operating. She said of the establishments visited by inspectors over the weekend, 49% of bars and 33% of restaurants were failing to meet physical distancing requirements. She said 54% of bars and 44% of restaurants were violating the requirement that workers wear face masks and shields.
“While it’s disappointing to take a step back on our economic recovery journey, it’s critical that we protect the health of our residents and protect the capacity in our healthcare system,” said Ferrer.
Ferrer, like many health professionals across the nation, expressed her concern over the rise in COVID-19 cases the county has seen in recent days. She said the increases were indicative of increased community spread of the virus, likely the result of more people being out of their homes as sectors of the economy reopened, such as restaurants and shopping malls.
“I think one of the reasons why we have an increase in the number of cases is we have a lot more people going back to work and a lot of people taking advantage of the fact that a lot of our sectors have reopened," Ferrer said during a Thursday morning interview on Good Day LA.
Ferrer said that there are ways each individual person can help slow the spread of the virus, such as wearing a face-covering when you're around other people, avoiding crowds and washing your hands frequently to prevent passing along the infection or getting infected yourself.
“We all need to remember that we do get to play a role in preventing there from being spikes and infections… The truth of the matter is, this is actually a virus where we can do a lot to prevent the transmission of ourselves, as individual people and businesses can do a lot,” she said.
Ferrer said residents need to take the call to leave home only for essentials seriously.
"At this point, if you're not part of the solution to slowing the spread, you're ending up being part of the problem," Ferrer said.
She said the latest dire statistics have led to a "tenuous moment" in the pandemic, and with the Fourth of July holiday weekend approaching, people need to avoid the temptation to act as if the coronavirus is gone.
"This is going to be a different summer," she said. "This is going to be a different July Fourth."
She stopped short of saying the county might order a closure of beaches to prevent large gatherings, but said conversations are being held with beach-city mayors.
"We'll be working with all of our partners to make the decisions" to keep residents safe, she said.
In LA County, approximately 93% of all residents who died from the virus had underlying health conditions. Ferrer said this emphasizes the county's need to protect those with underlying health conditions and urges those residents to stay at home as much as possible.
She said this includes, but is not limited to, individuals with asthma, those who have had cancer, anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and anyone who is immune-compromised.
"If you're part of one of these groups, you need to take every precaution imaginable to protect yourself from COVID-19," said Ferrer.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the list of symptoms of the virus. Congestion or runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea were added, joining the federal agency's list that already included fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell and sore throat.
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.
Recently, the state Department of Public Health issued new guidelines mandating face coverings in most situations while indoors, but also outside when a person cannot maintain six feet of social distance.
There are exemptions that include children age 2 and younger because of the risk of suffocation, and for people with a variety of medical or psychological issues that make mask-wearing a hazard.
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.
Public Health continues to remind 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.
The county's health department says that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of widespread transmission, everyone should always wear a face-covering securely over their nose and mouth and keep six feet apart from others not in their household when out and about.
Health officials say coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms. In early April, 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.
Public Health says that the best protection against COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, self-isolate if you are sick, practice physical distancing and wear a clean face covering when in contact with others from outside your household.
Click here for a list of locations of confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County.
RELATED: CoronavirusNOW.com, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates.
CNS contributed to this report.