LA County surpasses grim milestone of 25,000 COVID-19 deaths

Los Angeles County Public Health officials confirmed 35 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, Aug. 19, lifting the overall death toll from the virus to more than 25,000. The county reported 3,239 new cases for a total of 1,362,848 since the pandemic began, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.  The county’s daily test positivity rate is 3.7%, public health officials announced, which is down from last week’s rate of 4.5% [cq comment=”Wednesday: Los Angeles County Public Health officials confirmed … XX  new COVID-19 deaths, lifting the overall death toll from the virus to 24,967. Another 4,046 cases were confirmed, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 1,359,672.” ] There were 1,792 COVID patients in county hospitals Thursday, according to state figures, which is down a bit from 1,790 on Tuesday. There were also 414 people being treated in intensive care, up from 406 the previous day. County residents anticipated word from public health officials about a plan to distribute booster shots for the millions. As expected, federal health officials Wednesday recommended that all vaccinated Americans get booster shots eight months after they become fully vaccinated. That amounts to a third dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine — and “likely” an additional dose for people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot. Those shots are expected to become available beginning the week of Sept. 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services. The county over the weekend began offering third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines to people with compromised immune systems. Health officials urged people to consult their doctors to confirm their eligibility for the third shot, which should be administered at least 28 days following the second dose.  L.A. County Public Health officials urged residents to contact their health providers to verify eligibility.  For eligible residents, third doses are available at county sites that offer the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. On Wednesday, the CDC and HHS said data “make very clear” that protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection begins to decrease over time following the initial doses of vaccination — which prompted their recommendation of booster shots for all. “Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout,” the agencies said. “For that reason, we conclude that a booster shot will be needed to maximize vaccine-induced protection and prolong its durability.” Continued spread of the highly infectious delta variant of COVID-19 prompted county health officials late Monday to issue a new health order that will require all attendees at outdoor “mega-events” with 10,000 or more people to wear face masks. The rule, which takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, will affect sporting events such as Dodgers, Rams and Chargers game, along with LAFC and Galaxy soccer matches. The mask-wearing requirement will apply to all attendees, regardless of vaccination status. The state on Wednesday issued a directive requiring all attendees at indoor “mega-events” of 1,000 people or more to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event. SCHOOLS RESPOND Schools around the county continued to usher students back on campus for in-person — and officials continued to respond to positive tests for pupils. Students exposed to their peers who tested positive have been sent home, in accordance with district’s individual policies, to quarantine and get tested, usually based on the student’s vaccination status. In what’s believed to be the first such mandate in the state of California, the Culver City Unified School District announced Thursday it will require all eligible students to get a COVID-19 vaccine and show proof they have to enter campus. Even as cases continue to rise in the state and county, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond assured parents that students can stay in school, saying current health protocols can keep kids safe. “I believe we’re showing the way in California with more vaccines, masking and COVID testing that this can be done,” he said in an interview. “Obviously we’re going to keep monitoring for safety, but every indication we have shows this can be done if we follow the appropriate protocols for those students.” HOMELESS HIT HARD Earlier this week, county health officials said the number of homeless people becoming infected with the virus has jumped over the past month, mirroring a trend in the community as a whole. According to the Department of Public Health, the county had been reporting fewer than 30 cases among the homeless per week between late February and mid-July. But this week, the county verified 185 new cases, although 71 of them actually occurred in previous weeks but have just been confirmed as occurring among the homeless. Throughout the pandemic, 7,996 homeless people in the county have been infected with the virus, and 218 have died. [related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-tag”] “We have a very large population of people experiencing homelessness in L.A. County, and the availability of emergency, interim and permanent housing remains a priority, particularly during this long duration pandemic,” Ferrer said in a statement. “People experiencing homelessness are at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease due to underlying health conditions, age, or both. “As we partner with others to reach people experiencing homelessness that are not yet vaccinated, layering protection at programs serving this population is critical. This includes offering isolation and quarantine facilities for those positive for COVID-19 and for those close contacts to positive cases who are unsheltered. As with previous surges, our strategies for reducing transmission must focus on those at high risk who are without adequate resources,” she said. City News Service contributed to this report    

LA County surpasses grim milestone of 25,000 COVID-19 deaths

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