Virus update

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer provides an update Friday of COVID-19 cases in the state. The number of confirmed cases in the county has more than tripled in less than a week, she said.

Local cities each added two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Friday and Kern County reported its first death from the disease as the first week of the state’s stay-at-home orders came to a close.

Lancaster reported 18 confirmed cases and Palmdale four, each up two cases from Thursday’s reports.

These four were among the 257 new confirmed cases in Los Angeles County reported Friday, bringing the countywide total to 1,465, public health officials said.

The death toll also increased, with five additional deaths to report. All five people — four men and one woman — were older than 60, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

This brings the total number of deaths in Los Angeles County to 26, for a mortality rate of 1.8%. This is higher than New York City’s 1.4% rate, or the nation as a whole, she said.

New York also has a greater testing capacity and has had more confirmed positive cases.

In Los Angeles County, almost 11,000 people have been tested, with about 11% of the tests being positive for the virus.

Although testing capacity has increased, it is still limited and there is a backlog on returning results. In order to be tested, a person has to be symptomatic and their health care provider has to determine it is clinically important to be tested, Ferrer said.

In less than a week, the number of confirmed cases has climbed from 409 to 1,465 people.

“We’ve more than tripled the number of people here in L.A. County who are positive for COVID-19,” Ferrer said.

The increase reflects improved access to testing and catching up on results, she said, “but we also have to assume that these number represent the very real fact that we have a lot more people infected in the county who are capable of infecting others.”

Although the vast majority of people testing positive for COVID-19 are between the ages of 18 and 65, those who become more seriously ill and even die are primarily older.

“Those of you who are infected, you are the risk,” Ferrer said. Even those who do not become seriously ill with the disease may infect others who will.

Of those infected, 317 have required hospitalization at some point, or about 22% of all positive cases, Ferrer said. There are currently about 70 people hospitalized with COVID-19 and 70% are in intensive care.

“This virus knows no boundaries and it can be imported and exported wherever there are people,” Ferrer said.

The limited amount of testing here makes it difficult to create a suitable model projecting the disease’s spread. However, Ferrer said it was not unreasonable to expect another two to three weeks of increasing numbers in Los Angeles County.

For the public, these projections are important “to really understand what lies in front of us, which is large numbers of people can easily get infected if we’re not doing everything in our power to make that a little bit harder,” she said.

In Kern County, the first COVID-19 related death was reported Friday. The county has reported 40 confirmed cases of the disease in residents and one in a non-resident visiting the county, officials said.

There was no information publicly available on the person who died or where they resided.

Of the 40 confirmed cases in Kern County, so far only two have been reported in the desert region on the county’s east side, which includes communities of Rosamond, Mojave, California City and Ridgecrest.

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