California continues to remain the nation’s hardest-hit state during the pandemic as coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths keep surging.
In Los Angeles County, the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, a new death due to Covid is now reported every eight minutes.
On Thursday, January 7, 2021, Mayor Eric Garcetti said the number of people who died in the county in one day is equivalent to the number of homicide deaths the city saw last year.
‘Yesterday we had 259 deaths, that’s one more than all the homicides in 2019 in LA city combined,’ Garcetti told reporters at his news conference.
‘In a single day, equal to a year of homicides.’
It comes as state officials issued a travel advisory recommending people not travel more than 120 miles away from home and government officials say a commonly used test may be returning false negatives.
The infection numbers affecting Los Angeles since November have been staggering, even after 10 long months of the pandemic in the nation’s second-largest city.
The county, the nation’s most populous with 10 million residents, and nearly two dozen other counties have essentially run out of intensive care unit beds for COVID-19 patients.
Refrigerated trucks are now being sent across California to store the corpses as morgues and funeral homes become overwhelmed.
The number was increased from 60 to 88 this week, with most being sent to the south of the state where cases are at their worst.
The National Guard has also been called into Los Angeles County to assist with the temporary storage of bodies at the county medical examiner-coroner’s office, according to the Los Angeles Times, as other morgues have run out of space.
Around one in 12 have already been infected, and one in five of those tested recently are positive. More than 11,000 residents have died with nearly half those deaths occurring in the last two months.
‘We are not, nor will we ever, become accustomed to these numbers as normal. Nor will I ever accept them as something we should just live with,’ Garcetti added.
‘Because every single one of those means everything to somebody out there today.’
A record 8,098 county residents are currently hospitalized with coronavirus, 20 percent of whom are in intensive care units.
Since January 3, hospitalizations have increased by more than seven percent.
Hospitals have also now begun to ration care.
Guidelines posted on the website for Methodist Hospital of Southern California warned: ‘If a patient becomes extremely ill and very unlikely to survive their illness (even with life-saving treatment), then certain resources…may be allocated to another patient who is more likely to survive.’
Ambulance workers have been told to stop transporting some patients with extremely low survival chances.
This week, California hospitals were ordered to postpone non-urgent surgeries and to accept Covid-19 patients from elsewhere in the hard-hit state if they have space.
Barbara Ferrer, public health director for Los Angeles County, on Thursday, said the outbreak has gotten out of control
‘This is a health crisis of epic proportions and we need everyone – I mean everyone – to use the tools right in front of them to help us drive down transmission of this deadly virus,’ she said on Thursday
‘Everyone in LA County, businesses and residents, need to follow the rules if there is any chance we can get out of this surge by the end of the month.’
Meanwhile, Californians are being asked to stay home and not travel.
According to a new advisory, residents are counseled to not travel more than 120 miles from where they live unless it is essential.
Essential travel is classified as any ‘associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or otherwise required or expressly authorized by law…including work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.’
‘Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID, the advisory reads.
It comes as federal officials reveal a coronavirus test commonly used at sites Los Angeles sites may be providing inaccurate results.
According to an alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, tests by the company Curative Inc may be giving false negatives.
The alert reads that ‘when the test is not performed in accordance with its authorization or as described in the authorized labeling, there is a greater risk that the results of the test may not be accurate.’
Mayor Garcetti defended the test, however, and said it has been used to identify 92,000 asymptomatic cases.
‘The proof is that we’ve had a third of people, nearly 100,000 people who would have gone undiagnosed, that we were able to catch because of this test – and it has helped us predict those surges in hospitalizations and deaths as a result,” Garcetti said.
‘I’m not going to ever apologize because there was, I think, a lot of debate about whether asymptomatic people should be tested or not.’
However, to reduce the risk of false negatives, the FDA says the test should only be used on symptomatic individuals within 14 days of exhibiting signs of illness.