LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County set another grim record Wednesday, confirming another 145 deaths due to COVID-19 — the highest single-day number reported since the pandemic began — while also warning that hospitalization and fatality numbers are certain to get worse over the next two weeks.
With the Christmas holiday at hand, health officials again urged residents to stay home and avoid gathering with anyone outside their own household, something that occurred rampantly over Thanksgiving and contributed to the current surge in cases.
“I’m very worried today that there are thousands of LA County residents whose actions are creating tremendous risks and contributing to the continued surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths,’’ county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “This virus makes people sick because a person with COVID-19 — through their breathing, talking, singing, chanting — expelled the virus in their respiratory droplets and other people nearby were then infected from the droplets. This need not happen if we stay away from non- household members as much as possible.’’
She added: “With thousands of cases of newly infected people every day, and the fact that many people have no symptoms and simply don’t know that they’re carrying the virus, it is highly likely that every time you and others in your household leave your home, you will come into contact with somebody who’s infected.’’
The 145 deaths reported by the county Wednesday lifted the overall county death toll to 9,153. The county also reported another 16,525 new COVID cases, pushing that overall number to 663,954.
The county’s most current modeling estimates that one in every 95 residents who aren’t hospitalized or in quarantine are infected with the virus and capable of spreading it. That’s a slight improvement from last week, when the estimate was one in 80 residents. The transmission rate of the virus — the average number of people every COVID patient infects with the virus — was estimated at 1.11 on Wednesday, down slightly from 1.2 last week.
But Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the county Department of Health Services, said those numbers shouldn’t be mistaken as a sign the virus is any less prevalent or deadly, noting that anytime the transmission rate is over 1.0, the number of cases in the county will continue to grow.
“These rising cases will put even more strain on our already overburdened hospitals and the people who work in them,’’ Ghaly said. “... New patient hospitalizations have continued to increase at a rate that we haven’t seen before in the pandemic.’’
She said about 750 new COVID patients are being admitted to hospitals every day. The county reported 6,155 people hospitalized across the county with COVID-19, although the state listed the county’s hospital population at 6,499, with more than 1,300 confirmed or suspected COVID patients in intensive care. As of Wednesday morning, the county’s 70 “911-receiving’’ hospitals had 648 total available beds, and just 57 ICU beds — 33 of them adult beds and 24 pediatric.
The county has an overall licensed ICU capacity of about 2,500 beds. According to the county DHS, hospitals surged their capacity to operate a daily average of 2,660 ICU beds last week. On average, those beds were occupied by 996 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases on a daily basis, or about 37% of the 2,660 staffed beds. The hospitals last week averaged 55 open and staffed ICU beds on a daily basis.
Those 70 hospitals operated a daily average of about 10,000 non-ICU beds last week, with 36% of them on any given day occupied by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients, and only about 300 beds staffed and available each day.
The average number of hospitalized COVID patients in the county has increased by 547% since Nov. 9. Average daily deaths are up 467%, from about 12 per day in early November to 69 per day last week. Average daily new cases have soared by 907%.
Emergency rooms have become so crowded that Ghaly said some ambulances have had to wait hours to offload patients due to a lack of space. She said that on Tuesday, 96% of the county’s 70 emergency-equipped hospitals diverted ambulance traffic to other medical facilities at some point during the day — up from the normal average of 33% for this time of year.
As of Wednesday, the following areas reported COVID-19 cases and deaths:
• Palmdale: 13,422 cases and 109 deaths.
• Lancaster: 12,226 cases and 107 deaths (includes cases associated with correctional facility outbreaks).
• Lake Los Angeles: 837 cases and four deaths.
• Quartz Hill: 632 cases and 14 deaths.
• Sun Village: 480 cases and five deaths.
• Littlerock: 272 cases and one death.
• Littlerock/Pearblossom: 258 cases and one death.
• Acton: 225 cases and three deaths.
• Agua Dulce: 113 cases and no deaths.
• Leona Valley: 59 cases and no deaths.
• Littlerock/Juniper Hills: 57 cases and no deaths.
• Pearblossom/Llano: 53 cases and one death.
• Elizabeth Lake: 36 cases and no deaths.
• Llano: 22 cases and no deaths.
• Lake Hughes: 21 cases and no deaths.