Los Angeles County reported a record-high single-day number of coronavirus cases Wednesday, but health officials blamed the spike on a "dump" of test results from a single lab, while insisting that key metrics such as hospitalization and transmission rates were holding steady.
The county Department of Public Health announced 2,129 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, pushing the overall total to 77,189. Public health director Barbara Ferrer said at least 600 of those cases were the result of a backlog of results from one testing facility.
"We're getting dumps of lab reports that were not submitted to us in a timely way," Ferrer said as she urged testing facilities to immediately turn in their data to the county.
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Shortly after Ferrer gave her county update, Long Beach health officials Wednesday afternoon reported another 71 confirmed cases and Pasadena reported another 25, raising the overall county total to 77,285.
The county reported another 34 deaths from the virus, although two of those deaths were reported Tuesday afternoon by officials in Long Beach and Pasadena. Long Beach and Pasadena both announced one more death Wednesday afternoon. The new fatalities lifted the county's overall death total to 2,993.
As of Wednesday, there were 1,420 people hospitalized in the county due to coronavirus. While that number is a slight uptick from Tuesday, Ferrer said the hospitalization rate -- a key measure of efforts to contain the virus -- has been holding steady in recent weeks. Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county's health services director, said the local transmission rate has also remained stable, and there was no immediate fear of hospitals being overwhelmed with patients.
The rate of people who are tested who wind up being positive for COVID-19 is also holding steady at 8%, officials said.
But they warned that people should not get complacent -- stressing the virus is still spreading in the community and residents need to keep taking precautions, even as the economy reopens.
"Given that the vast majority of those living in Los Angeles County are still susceptible to COVID-19 and the infection, we need to rely on a refined set of practices that allow us to get back to work and back to living our lives safely," Ghaly said.
Ferrer said all residents and staff have now been tested at all 315 skilled nursing facilities in the county, outside of Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments. Like the county as a whole, the seven-day average death rate has also been trending downward at nursing home, Ferrer said.
She also announced that limited, restricted visitation can now resume at nursing facilities that have not had any new COVID-19 infections occur for a period of 28 days.
"It's highly unlikely that you'll see relaxing across the board at all of the (skilled nursing facilities) given the fact that they do need to be 28 days out with no new cases,'' she said. ``But visitors with fever or COVID-19 symptoms will not be permitted to enter into a facility. Visitors are going to need to practice distancing of at least six feet. Everyone will need to wear their face mask at all times and signs will be posted with additional rules at each of the facilities and shared with visitors.''
She said those social distancing and face mask requirements are also important for all residents to remember as they move about in public and visit reopened businesses.
Ferrer also indicated there could be movement this week allowing nail salons to reopen.
"We are working very closely with the board (of supervisors) to assess the options on the reopening. We hope that we'll be able to share more information ... as early as tomorrow about where we continue and how we continue on our recovery journey.
"... There is an obligation on every business that's open at this point to really adhere to the guidance and the protocols and directives that are out there about how to make sure that your facility offers as much safety as possible to both your workers, to your customers and to residents."
Ferrer noted Monday that county inspectors had visited 2,000 restaurants over the weekend, and half of them were out of compliance with operating protocols.