LOS ANGELES - For the second day in a row, Los Angeles County on Friday shattered another daily record for the highest amount of COVID-19 cases reported in a single day since the start of the pandemic.
"We're on a very dangerous track to seeing unprecedented and catastrophic suffering and death here in L.A. County if we can't stop the surge," warned the county's Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, as she announced 13,815 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, breaking the previous record of 12,819 cases reported Thursday.
"We're in uncharted territory at this point," Ferrer said. "We're seeing daily numbers of cases and hospitalizations that we've not experienced and frankly did not anticipate. Our intensive care unit capacity continues to drop. And in order to stop this very dangerous surge, today I'm making a request to everyone in L.A. County to stay home as much as possible."
The new cases reported Friday brought the county's cumulative total number of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic to 501,635.
The county death toll has also started a sharp upward turn -- something health officials have said was inevitable given the startling surge in cases over the past month. Health officials Friday reported another 50 coronavirus-related deaths, lifting the countywide death toll to 8,199.
Hospitalization numbers also continued a troubling climb, with the county reporting 3,624 people being treated for the coronavirus, and 23% of those people, roughly 830, were in intensive care.
Ferrer said if current trends continue, the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized and in intensive care will double in two weeks -- a troubling circumstance given the roughly 2,100 available adult ICU beds in the entire county, a number based more on available staffing than physical beds.
According to the county Department of Public Health website, the county as of Thursday had 606 non-specialized adult hospital beds available, and 71 adult ICU beds.
"The impact of these Thanksgiving surges of cases, on top of already rising cases, is creating extraordinary stress" on the county's health care system, Ferrer said. "Should this be followed by another surge related to the winter holiday, the numbers of hospitalizations and patients in the ICU could become catastrophic."
The rise in hospitalizations led the 11-county Southern California region into a state-mandated stay-at-home order that will be in place until at least Dec. 28.
The stay-at-home order took effect Sunday night, when the region's ICU capacity fell below 15%. Since then, the situation has worsened, with the region's ICU capacity estimated at just 6.2% as of Friday.
Ferrer said cases were already trending upward in the county prior to Thanksgiving, prompting the county to cut off outdoor dining at restaurants, but the current dramatic surge in cases is directly attributable to gatherings and travel that occurred over the holiday in spite of public health warnings, creating a surge on top of a surge.
And if another surge from Christmas compounds matters, the situation at hospitals "could become catastrophic," Ferrer said.
CNS contributed to this report.