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COVID-19 cases and deaths spike, vaccines offer hope

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

“On Monday the very first healthcare workers in Los Angeles County received the vaccine, bringing some very much needed hope during theses dark times,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said during a news conference on Wednesday.

She proclaimed it a momentous day in the fight against COVID-19, however, it will take months for the vaccine to be widely distributed, so for the present, each and every community member must to do what they can to slow the spread of the virus.

“The reality is that the vaccine will not save us from the current COVID surge, our hope must be balanced by vigilance,” Ms. Solis said. “The vaccine is here, the pandemic will not last forever and the goal for now is to continue keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe until widespread access becomes available. It’s only a matter of time but we must first get through these next several months.”

But today in L.A. County, the news is grim. The county reported 138 new deaths—the highest number in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic. To date, 8,568 county residents have died.

On Wednesday the county reported a shocking 22,422 new cases, which includes a backlog of approximately 7,000 cases from a lab that did not report for several days. That means actual new cases Wednesday may be closer to 15,000, but it also means the 11,194 cases reported Tuesday and the 7,344 reported on Monday were artificially low.

To put the current surge into perspective, on December 1 the county had 408,396 cumulative cases and on Wednesday that had climbed to 566,005. That means nearly 28 percent of all the cases recorded since the beginning of the pandemic occurred in the last two weeks.

“These are extraordinary numbers and they represent transmission that continues to be out of control,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Wednesday.

In Claremont the cumulative case total topped 1,000 earlier in the week and on Wednesday stood at 1,030. Just like the county, Claremont has recorded 28 percent of its total cases since December 1. This also means that a lot more Claremont residents are currently infected than ever before. Sadly our total deaths now stand at 18.

The alarming rise in infections is already taking its toll on the county’s hospitals and the medical staff. Since early November the daily numbers of people currently hospitalized has increased from about 791 patients on Nov 1 to 4,656 on Wednesday. Twenty-one percent of these patients are in ICU and 15 percent on ventilators.

According to the state, ICU capacity in Southern California currently stands at 1.7 percent. However, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday morning that the capacity in the region had fallen to 0.5 percent.

“Hospital capacity is decreasing to alarming levels and our health care workers are pushed to the limits. This affects every person who lives or works in L.A. County, since we all depend on being able to get essential hospital care when we need it,” Ms. Ferrer said. “Every hour on average two of our neighbors, family and friends are dying from COVID-19 and the virus is rampant in all neighborhoods.”

Of greatest concern to public heath officials is what the future will be for hospital capacity given that it takes five to seven days for people with COVID-19 to develop symptoms severe enough require hospitalizations.

“The sad reality is the overwhelming increase in COVID-19 patients in hospitals today reflects our case numbers two weeks ago when the average number of daily case was about 6,300. With our average new cases increasing to 12,000 the number of people who need hospital care will just keep increasing,” Ms. Ferrer said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, the gaps between race and ethnicity groups have begun to widen again. This is particularly true for Hispanic residents with a seven-day cumulative rate of nearly 650 new cases per 100,000 people. Although all groups are experiencing increases, Hispanic residents have double the infection rate of Black residents, the group with the second highest case rate, and three times that of white and Asian residents.

Sadly, this has also resulted in a sharp increase in the death rate for Hispanics and Blacks. And even though cases among Asians are relatively low they have seen an increase in their death rate as well.

The mortality rate among Hispanic residents has increased from 1.5 deaths per 100,000 people around November 1, to 4.5 deaths per 100,000 people by December 8. For Black residents, the death rate has increased from less than one per 100,000 residents to three per 100,000 people over that same time period. And Asian residents increased from 0.5 deaths per 100,000 to three per 100,000 people.

“We have learned a hard and painful lesson for our actions over the Thanksgiving holiday, please let’s not repeat the same mistakes as we move into our next holiday season,” Ms. Ferrer said.

 

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