The post-holiday COVID-19 surge that health officials warned of is underway, as the nearly 17,000 new cases Saturday raised the weekly figure to more than 100,000, while 221 additional deaths were reported.
To date, more than 900,000 people countywide have been diagnosed with the disease, and more than 12,000 have died, according to the Department of Public Health.
This marks the fourth consecutive day that the county reported 200 or more deaths, the inescapable end result of soaring hospitalization numbers that have been on the rise since mid-November, and more dramatically so following the Thanksgiving holiday.
Once again, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer expressed her condolences to the families that have lost loved ones and cautioned people from gathering with people outside their own households.
"The best way to protect ourselves, slow the spread, and stop overwhelming our hospitals, is to pause participating in any activities that aren't absolutely essential," Ferrer said. "This is just not the time to go to the shopping mall or to a friend's house to watch a basketball or football game."
Dr. Paul Simon talked to reporters earlier this week, saying, "The scale of the tragedy associated with this pandemic is unfathomable. Even more so because so much of it is preventable."
"The very high numbers I will report today are sadly no surprise. They didn't happen by accident,'' Simon said. "They're a direct result of the many people who are not following the necessary precautions over the winter holiday -- not wearing face coverings, not limiting contact with those outside their households, not physically distancing when outside the home and not refraining from traveling.
"We anticipate the number of hospitalizations and deaths will remain high throughout this month because of what occurred over the holidays," he said.
On Saturday, Public Health also reported three more cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, known as MIS-C. This brings the total cases of MIS-C in L.A. County to 54 children including one child death. All 54 were hospitalized and half of them were treated in the ICU. Of the children with MIS-C, 30% were under the age of 5, 37% were between the ages of 5 and 11, and 33% were between the ages of 12 and 20. Latinx children account for nearly 74% of the reported cases.
"MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19 and symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs," according to Public Health.
The department advised that if you believe your child is displaying MIS-C symptoms, you should contact your primary care provider. For those who do not have a primary care provider, they will be helped connecting with one by dialing 211.
The rising number of deaths has led to issues at some hospitals, which have been running out of space to store bodies, particularly with overrun funeral homes unable to accept them. A California National Guard team was previously dispatched to the county coroner's office to assist with the management of the increasing deaths.
In a statement Thursday, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services announced that a temporary morgue will be erected in the parking lot adjacent to the county coroner's building to handle the influx of bodies. The facility will include at least five 53-foot trailers supplied by the state, and five more supplied by the county, along with an unknown number of "ground refrigerated storage containers."
There were 7,966 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county as of Saturday, with 22% of them in the ICU.
According to the State, the Southern California Region continues to have 0% ICU capacity remaining.
The county's 70 "911-receiving'' hospitals with emergency rooms have a total licensed capacity of about 2,500 ICU beds. Last week, the county averaged 31 available adult ICU beds on a daily basis, with 78% of all ICU patients in the county being treated for COVID.
County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said this week that numbers of new daily hospital admissions had begun to level off -- but still at a high level, and patient discharges have not kept pace, leading to the growing hospital population.
But she and other health officials warned that the admissions are anticipated to surge upward again as a result of the winter holidays. Simon said the county is only now beginning to see the rise in case numbers from the Christmas holiday.
"This is a clear reflection of what was happening two to four weeks ago over the holiday time, (when people were) traveling, mixing,'' Simon said. "... Where people are sharing air ... the virus will spread. We do anticipate given the high number of cases ... we're going to see high levels of hospitalizations and sadly deaths over at least the next two to four weeks. We are hoping, urging the public to adhere more strictly to our control measures and hoping now that we're beyond the holiday time to see a decline in cases, but we'll be watching very closely.''