LOS ANGELES - More than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in the state of California have occurred in Los Angeles County, according to data provided by both the county and state's health departments.
L.A. County on Friday reported 40 new deaths, which was reported Tuesday and Wednesday as the highest amount of daily deaths since the pandemic began, a statistic that was surpassed Thursday when the county reported 55 new deaths.
As of this writing, the county reported a total of 495 coronavirus deaths, more than half of the 985 deaths reported across the state of California.
L.A. County is the most densely populated county in the state, with more than 10 million residents residing within its borders. The state's second large county, San Diego, which has roughly 7 million fewer residents than L.A. County, has reported only 63 deaths.
Of the deaths reported Friday in L.A. County, 28 individuals were over the age of 65, 19 of which had underlying health conditions. Eight individuals who died were between the ages of 41 and 65, six of which had underlying health conditions. The information about the remaining deaths was not immediately available, health officials said during Friday's press briefing.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in L.A. County rose to 11,391 on Friday, with 567 new cases reported since the day prior. The number of cases equates to approximately 41% of the state's 27,528 positive cases.
L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that 87% of all the county's deaths were individuals with underlying health conditions, stressing the importance of protecting the county's most vulnerable residents.
Earlier Friday, county officials announced that all residents showing symptoms are now eligible for free, same-day drive-thru coronavirus testing. The testing will be available to all residents regardless of immigration status, insurance status, age or whether or not they have underlying health issues.
There are currently 29 operational sites throughout the county, both drive-up and walk-up sites are available. However, residents still need to book an appointment online first, prior to showing up at testing sites. For a full list of locations and answers to questions about testing, click here.
Echoing guidance from the White House, last week, Ferrer said people should try to avoid leaving their homes altogether for the next few 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.
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.
Last week, the county extended its "safer-at-home" order until May 15. The health order now requires all residents in Los Angeles County to wear a face-covering when entering an essential business. It also requires all essential business employees to wear a face-covering if their work involves interacting with others.
This comes as more evidence is emerging that coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms. Recently, 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.
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.
On Monday, Ferrer clarified for the public that those who have tested positive for the coronavirus, those who have symptoms and those who are waiting for test results need to self-isolate for seven days and an additional 72-hours after fever and symptoms subside.
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.
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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.