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LANCASTER — Lancaster may have recorded the first local death attributed to COVID-19, a person under the age of 18, but public health officials said late Tuesday the case requires further examination to determine the cause.

Tuesday afternoon, Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer reported the death in Lancaster of a juvenile, calling it “a devastating reminder that COVID-19 infects people of all ages.”

However, by Tuesday evening, officials said the death requires further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality,” officials said in a press release.

No additional information was available due to patient privacy concerns.

The youth’s death was one of four additional, due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, reported by officials Tuesday, bringing the total to 11, including Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own public health departments.

Two of the four most recent deaths were individuals between 50 and 70 years old, one of which had underlying health conditions and lived in West Adams. The residence of the other was under investigation. One death was reported in Long Beach.

The total number of confirmed cases increased, as well, to 662 county-wide, with 128 new confirmations since Monday’s report.

Tuesday’s figures show Lancaster has eight confirmed cases reported, while Palmdale has two.

Palmdale Regional Medical Center officials confirmed Monday afternoon, that the hospital had two patients who confirmed positive for COVID-19, from among a few individuals who have been tested there, even though the county figures listed only one confirmed case at the time.

Of the total confirmed cases, 119 have been hospitalized at some point, or about 18%, Ferrer said.

The virus’ effect on all ages can be seen through the spread of confirmed cases. Of the total, 42% are in the 18 to 40 age range and 39% are between the ages of 41 and 65, officials reported.

“There is a false notion that this virus only affects the elderly. That is untrue. COVID-19 presents a danger to all of us, and that is why it is so important we all stay at home, practice social distancing and follow CDS guidelines,” Congressional candidate Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith said in a Twitter post, offering her condolences to the Lancaster youth’s family and loved ones. “We can and will weather this dark time, but we will have to do it together.”

As of Monday, more than 5,700 people county-wide have been tested, with about 10% of the tests returning positive results.

“We’ve been at about 10% since the beginning of us being able to do testing here locally,” Ferrer said.

Thousands more testing kits are expected to be available by the end of this week, she said.

However, capacity is still limited and there are long waits until the results are received. Therefore, testing is being limited to those who are symptomatic and who have had testing ordered by a health care provider.

Those who have been tested and are awaiting results should still isolate themselves, as if they have tested positive and to inform those they have had close contact with recently.

Those symptomatic, but who haven’t been tested, are also asked to isolate themselves from others as if they are positive and notify close contacts so that they can begin to quarantine themselves for the required 14 days.

“Social distancing is one very important tool that we use, but the second tool that we need to continue to ask for your cooperation on is adhering to isolation and quarantine orders,” Ferrer said.

Isolation is required by law for anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or whose clinician has told them it is likely they have it. 

“We know that there are some long wait times from some of the commercial labs and I don’t want people to be out and about while you’re waiting for your test results,” Ferrer said. “If you needed to be tested, there is a good chance you could be positive.”

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