By Darlene Donloe
LOS ANGELES — During a week when California’s political leaders are seriously considering when the state could loosen stay-at-home orders and reopen for business, the number of COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County topped 1,000.
After that grim announcement, Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s public health director called it “an unfortunate milestone.”
On April 29, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 56 new deaths and 1,541 new cases of the coronavirus. The day before there were 59 new deaths and 597 new cases of the virus.
Currently, there are 22,485 positive cases of COVID-19 across L.A. County, and a total of 1,058 deaths.
Ferrer said the “Numbers are high, partly because we are increasing testing.”
Despite the continued increase in the number of cases and deaths statewide, Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed optimism on April 28, that it could be “weeks, not months” until some of the stay-at-home orders are relaxed, possibly allowing some lower-risk businesses to reopen.
Ferrer, who reminded everyone that the county’s safer-at-home order is scheduled to expire May 15, said she shared that optimism.
“I think we’re all with the governor on this,” Ferrer said. “We know that we’re headed into recovery. We’re hoping that happens sometime in the middle of May. That’s our best guess right now.”
The fatalities continue to have a disproportionate impact on the black community. Black residents make up about 9% of the county’s overall population.
As of April 29, there have been 950 reported cases of the coronavirus among Blacks and 130 deaths.
Also as of April 29, information about race and ethnicity was available for 977 people (99% of the cases), with 38% of deaths being among Latino residents, 28% among white, 18% Asian, 14% black, 1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents and 1% among residents identifying with other races.
In response to a Board of Supervisors’ motion to address issues of inequities in COVID-19 outcomes, the Department of Public Health released a report about the racial/ethnic and socioeconomic characteristics of people who have been tested, hospitalized and died from COVID-19.
Ferrer noted that among African Americans, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, and people living in communities with high levels of poverty, they continue to have the highest rate of death per 100,000 people for COVID-19 when compared to other groups.
During her briefing April 29, Ferrer asked the public to join Public Health in its efforts to “put a stop to the inequitable distribution of the harsh impacts of COVID-19.”
“Rates of cases and death are also higher among people with less income while the rate of testing increases as income increases,” Ferrer said. “These trends are troubling and are of great concern and they suggest that more affluent residents may have better access to COVID-19 testing and to health treatment services.”
The rates of COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths are extremely high among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and are also higher among African Americans and Latinos than among whites and Asians. American Indians and Alaskan Natives have lower rates of cases and deaths, however, the numbers are small, and this may change significantly over time, according to Ferrer.
“The findings also highlight the urgent need for more intensive efforts to expand culturally competent testing, treatment and prevention strategies in the African-American, Latino and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations, as well as in low-income communities,” she said.
“Public Health is working hard with our community partners and with the Department of Health Services to implement strategies that both acknowledge root causes of long-standing inequities and the distribution of the very resources that are needed for health and to offer an immediate set of action steps to improve access to testing, treatment, and needed services,” Ferrer said.
On a national note, the U.S. hit a milestone on April 28, when it reported 1 million cases of COVID-19 nationwide, which is about one-third of all reported cases around the globe.