The number of coronavirus cases and related deaths in Los Angeles County continued to surge over the first two days of the three-day holiday weekend, with health officials on Saturday reporting a combined tally of nearly 30,000 cases.
Officials reported 29,423 new coronavirus cases over Christmas Day and Saturday combined. Officials said Friday’s case numbers were delayed a day because of an interruption of internet service in the L.A. area by Spectrum.
Local health agencies also reported 136 deaths over the two-day period. The county has averaged about 14,000 new coronavirus cases a day and 88 COVID-19 deaths daily over the past week.
Los Angeles County has now reported a total of more than 707,000 coronavirus cases and more than 9,440 deaths.
Hospitals throughout the county are overwhelmed. Some are running dangerously low on their supplies of oxygen, critical to treating severely ill COVID-19 patients who have begun to suffocate on account of their virus-inflamed lungs. Emergency rooms are so overcrowded that ambulances have to wait as long as eight hours to drop off patients or are sometimes sent to hospitals farther away.
“People mixing with others not in their household has driven the COVID-19 pandemic in L.A. County to the most dangerous levels that we have ever seen,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “The overwhelmed hospitals are the saddest proof of this reality. To honor our health care workers and for the safety of your family and friends, please delay travel plans and gather only with members of our household. These actions will save lives.”
In Los Angeles County, COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 6,815, more than triple the figure from Thanksgiving, when 1,951 were in the hospital. ICUs across Los Angeles County are essentially full, and on Christmas, 1,368 people with COVID-19 were in the ICU, nearly triple the comparable figure from Thanksgiving, when 484 were in the ICU.
The surge in cases can be seen throughout the region.
On Saturday, Orange County also broke the record for highest count of new coronavirus cases in a single day, with 5,953 cases, breaking the record last set on Dec. 20, when 4,606 cases were reported. Orange County has averaged about 3,500 new coronavirus cases a day over the past week.
Orange County on Saturday also posted its highest tally of COVID-19 deaths reported in a single day Saturday, with 63 new deaths, breaking the record last set on Sept. 29, when 33 deaths were reported. Orange County has averaged 12 deaths a day over the past week.
Cumulatively, California has reported 2.1 million coronavirus cases, and, on Saturday, pushed past another sobering milestone: more than 24,000 deaths. At least 234 deaths were reported statewide Saturday, according to The Times’ independent county-by-county tally, and at least 24,200 deaths were reported.
If current trends continue, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts that California could tally a cumulative total of more than 70,000 deaths by April 1. An additional 15,000 would die if mandates are eased, while 10,000 fewer people would die if virtually everyone wore masks when outside the home.
With Christmas over, and many people defying pleas by authorities to skip holiday gatherings, Los Angeles County health officials are now urging people who traveled over the holiday to quarantine themselves for 10 days to see if they develop signs of illness. Quarantining keeps people at home as much as possible, with groceries and restaurant food delivered to avoid spreading the virus in the community.
“We’re really working right now on dealing with the fact that we think there is a lot of traveling,” Ferrer said the day before Christmas. “And that means when people come back, we need them to do that self-quarantine for those 10 days.”