US-NEWS-CORONAVIRUS-CALIF-LA

Sima Fischl-Debaroncelli, 73, a COVID-19 patient, watches as infusion coordinator Michelle Tzec checks the temperature of Dr. Peter Fischl, 72, at Desert Valley Hospital in Victorville on Dec. 17.

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County reported its deadliest day yet in the COVID-19 pandemic Wednesday – and officials warn the toll will only continue to climb unless residents take steps to blunt the rampant surge.

The 145 additional deaths, which surpassed the previous daily high of 134 announced a week ago, came the day after the county officially hit another morbid milestone: surpassing 9,000 total coronavirus-related deaths.

Even before Wednesday’s record report, the county had averaged 85 COVID-19 deaths a day over the last week, an all-time high.

In early November, the county was averaging about 12 coronavirus-related deaths per day, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

“This coronavirus has upended our lives, our daily routines, and it’s required enormous sacrifices as folks cope with the devastating financial losses,” she said during a briefing Wednesday. “However, for too many in L.A. County, COVID-19 has resulted in incalculable disruptions and permanent loss.”

Public health officials are now awaiting the arrival of Christmas and New Year’s with bated breath. 

Many seeds of the current surge, they say, were planted by people defying public health guidance against traveling and gathering with those outside their households for Thanksgiving.

If large numbers of Californians do the same this time around, officials warn, it’s almost certain to trigger yet another surge.

“We are experiencing, we have experienced, the surge on top of the surge from Thanksgiving,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. “And, obviously, the most important message that we can communicate today is to do everything in our power to mitigate the spread and the transfer of this virus during this very vulnerable period of time, because this virus loves social events. This virus thrives in that atmosphere.”

More than 23,000 Californians have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, a milestone crossed Tuesday. 

Over the last 14 days, more than 3,000 have died – a staggering number that accounts for 13% of the state’s 23,303 total fatalities.

Those numbers serve as a “sober, sober reminder of how deadly this disease is, and how tragic the loss of every life is,” according to Newsom.

“This disease remains deadly,” he said Wednesday. “This pandemic remains deadly.”

On Tuesday, 375 deaths were reported statewide, according to a county-by-county tally conducted by The Times, marking the second worst death toll in a single day, just short of the record recorded Dec. 16, when 394 deaths were recorded.

Fresno County reported 89 deaths Tuesday; previously, the largest number of fatalities it reported in a single day was 28, which happened Dec. 11. 

Fresno County is now reporting nearly 2,000 new coronavirus cases a day over the last week, nearly seven times worse than the comparable number from Thanksgiving.

Fresno County is now averaging 13 deaths a day from COVID-19 over the last seven days; the comparable number from Thanksgiving was two deaths a day.

The rapidly increasing number of deaths is the grimmest, but not the only, repercussion of COVID-19’s rampage across L.A. County and the state.

Infections have soared in recent weeks, pushing unprecedented numbers of patients into California’s hospitals.

On Tuesday, the most recent day for which complete data are available, there were record-high numbers statewide of COVID-19 hospitalizations – 18,448 – and patients in intensive care – 3,827.

In L.A. County, home to 10 million people, a point-in-time survey found that there were 30 available ICU beds as of 9 a.m. Sunday. A similar tally last week found 69.

“Today, we’re over 100% of our usual patient volume, and of that volume, 52% of our inpatients are patients diagnosed with COVID,” Greg Adams, chairman and chief executive of Kaiser Permanente, said Tuesday. “Sixteen of our 36 hospitals are already above 100% occupancy in our ICUs. We’re struggling to add capacity for COVID patients as we speak.”

Already, hospitals are having to step up measures to ensure that the sickest patients get the highest level of care possible. 

That includes moving some patients who would typically be in the ICU to other areas of the hospital, such as a recovery area, or keeping them in the emergency room for longer than normal.

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