LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday announced 4,015 additional cases of novel coronavirus, the largest number since the start of the pandemic. However, a huge portion is attributed to one laboratory’s backlog of nearly 2,000 positive test results that were conducted between July 2 and 5.
In addition, the county reported 46 new deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 3,579. The overall number of cases now surpasses 120,000.
With test results now available for more than 1.2 million individuals, 9% are testing positive in the county. The seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% three weeks ago to 11.6% as of Tuesday.
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.
"Cases are surging, hospitalizations are increasing and mostly, this is all a reflection of a lot more community spread," said the county's Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
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.
In addition to the rise in case numbers, hospitalization rates are also on the rise. Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state are up 50% over the past 14 days, adding that patients who require beds in the intensive care unit have increased by 39%.
The county is also seeing the rise in hospitalizations. Ferrer said there are 1,969 individuals currently hospitalized with the virus, adding that 27% of those hospitalized are in the ICU.
The number remains substantially higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations the county was reporting three weeks ago. The number of daily hospitalizations has steadily increased to over 1,900 since July 1, according to Public Health.
LA County beaches reopened to the public Monday following a weekend closure to discourage crowds and gatherings on the Fourth of July.
Last Wednesday, county health officials issued a revised health order to come into compliance with requirements announced earlier in the day by Newsom. The governor ordered the closure of many indoor business operations, most notably eliminating indoor dine-in service at restaurants. Also barred were indoor activities at museums, zoos, aquariums and card rooms.
Those restrictions will be in effect for at least three weeks, Newsom said.
All bars, breweries, brewpubs, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms in the county were also closed by a governor's order last Sunday. County officials previously noted that on the weekend of June 20, roughly 500,000 people visited bars and nightlife spots.
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.
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.
On June 18, the California 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 two 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.
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.
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.
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CNS contributed to this report.