“Today I want to be very clear: Our hospitals are under siege, and our model shows no end in sight,” said Los Angeles County’s director of health services Dr. Christina Ghaly on Wednesday, adding that “the worst is still before us.”
The county’s pandemic press conferences have never not been bleak, but today’s coronavirus update felt like the bleakest: climbing infection and positivity rates, record-setting numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, predictions that are literally off the charts, and staffing shortages at hospitals that have brought us to a point where all they can do is “brace for these days and weeks to come.”
“We are seeing the impact of what happened over Thanksgiving,” Ghaly said. “It does not seem that enough people heard and followed the message to stay home and avoid gathering with others.”
On Thursday, L.A. County reported 131 new deaths from COVID-19, the highest-ever number since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, the county reported 21,411 new positive cases, which includes a backlog of approximately 7,000 cases—but even accounting for that, the 14,000 or so new cases today would still be a record-setting number, as are the 4,656 people hospitalized in the county right now.
Ghaly also shared this startling statistic: 1 in every 80 people in L.A. County are infected with COVID-19 and infecting others.
It’s a frightening figure that comes as L.A. County is otherwise celebrating the initial rollout of the vaccine: 83,000 doses have arrived in the county for the highest-risk staff members at acute care hospitals, with more doses to come later this month (due to be distributed to healthcare personnel and residents at skilled nursing facilities and EMS frontline workers.
But at the same time, L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer noted that two people in the county are dying from the virus every hour. “Unless we remain more vigilant and more diligent through the holidays and beyond, we will not be able to stop the surge and provide essential relief to our hospitals and our healthcare workers,” Ferrer said.
Those steps, both part of the state’s regional stay-at-home order and practices that have been encouraged since the spring, include staying home, canceling any holiday travel plans, not visiting other people’s homes and only gathering with members of your own household. If you do need to leave your home, it should only be for work, exercise or essential services (which includes all of these currently-open sectors), and you should wear a face covering and keep a distance of six feet from others.
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