1 in 80 people have COVID-19 in L.A. County, which reports highest number of deaths since pandemic began

A record number of COVID-19 deaths were reported in Los Angeles County on Wednesday, as well as an overwhelming amount of cases in the midst of intensive care units statewide slipping to just 1.7% remaining capacity.

One in 80 people in the county, the nation’s most populous, have the disease, officials said.

At a press briefing Wednesday, health officials announced 138 new deaths, the most ever recorded since the start of the pandemic, and 22,422 new coronavirus cases , including a backlog of about 7,000 late test results.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said there were 4,656 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 21% of whom were in the ICU, and every hour, on average, two people in LA. County are dying from the virus.

“We’re experiencing an explosive and very deadly surge,” Ferrer said. “These are extraordinary, extraordinary numbers and they represent transmission that continues to be out of control.”

ICU beds across Southern California have been plummeting to critical levels this week, with capacity falling to 1% in Ventura County and 0% in Riverside County, the California Department of Public Health reported.

In L.A. County, fewer than 100 ICU beds were available as of Tuesday, and officials expect to see the number of people hospitalized reach 5,000 within a few days.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s director of health services, said one in every 80 people are now infected with COVID-19 and urged people to stay home as hospitals and health care workers are in dire straits.

“Hospitals are under siege and our model shows no end in sight” Ghaly said. “At this point, all our hospital systems can do is brace for the days and weeks to come.”

Ferrer said it’s time to start cancelling Christmas plans that include gathering with people outside of an individual’s household.

“We have learned a hard and painful lesson from our actions over Thanksgiving,” she said. “Please, let’s not repeat our same mistakes as we move into our next holiday season.”

Ghaly echoed that same sentiment, stating many celebrations are no longer safe and should be called off.

“Many things are permitted still, but they may not be wise,” Ghaly added. “Having just a very small birthday party for your child in a park is not safe. Having a very small holiday gathering, it’s not safe. Getting together with a couple of friends at dinner is not safe. Participating in a sports tournament, whether it’s formal or informal, it’s not safe.”

Countywide, there have been 566,005 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 8,568 deaths, both numbers which are continually rising.

We cannot afford to see another holiday surge that will overwhelm our already strained hospital system. Please, stay home as much as possible, wear your face coverings and don’t gather. pic.twitter.com/RGW4hbWWVB— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) December 16, 2020

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