City reports 13 new COVID deaths, most since March 2021

Long Beach health officials reported 13 new deaths related to COVID-19 Friday, the highest single-day figure since March 2, 2021.

The city has reported multiple deaths related to the virus for eight consecutive reporting days, the longest string of deaths since the devastating winter surge one year ago. Since Jan. 18, the city has reported 41 COVID-19 related deaths, the same number during the roughly two-month span of Nov. 9 to Jan 14.

Los Angeles County officials reported 101 new deaths Friday.

The surge in deaths was not unexpected, with health officials warning that it was inevitable following the unprecedented surge in new infections that began late last year when the omicron variant emerged. The rise in cases quickly became a rise in hospitalizations.

The high number of deaths reported Friday is the result of a delay in reporting by overwhelmed and understaffed hospitals combined with the expected rise following surging cases, health department spokeswoman Jennifer Rice Epstein said in a text message. All 13 deaths did occur in January, she confirmed.

“I send my deepest condolences to the many families and friends grieving the loss of a loved one,” county Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Friday. “As we turn the corner on this surge, let’s continue to stay focused on protecting our workforce.”

Long Beach officials Friday also reported the city’s first case of the the omicron subvariant known as BA.2. The variant was first detected in South Africa in December and its impact is not yet known, according to the city announcement.

Nicknamed “stealth omicron,” there is some indication the subvariant spreads more easily than the original but it does not appear to cause a more severe illness, city officials said.

The city on Friday reported that 324 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus at Long Beach-area hospitals. The figure marks a decrease from 343 reported Thursday, down from a recent high of 367 two weeks ago.

Just under 4,200 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 countywide, officials reported Friday.

Across MemorialCare’s regional facilities, including Long Beach, Orange Coast and Saddleback medical centers, COVID patients make up about 33% of admitted inpatient population, according to spokeswoman Richele Steele. At St. Mary Medical Center, meanwhile, COVID patients make up 20% of hospitalized patients, a hospital spokesperson said.

The city’s intensive care units are over 87% filled, according to the city’s updated dashboard. Over 37% of ICU patients are COVID positive. Under normal circumstances, the city’s ICUs would be 40-50% occupied, according to Rice Epstein.

Long Beach health officials reported 659 new cases, a decrease from recent surge levels that reached well into the thousands consistently for the last month. The city’s seven-day positivity rate and daily cases per 100,000 residents also continue steady declines, now at 24.8% and 258.7, respectively—figures that remain four times higher than one month ago.

County officials reported nearly 23,800 new cases Friday and a positivity rate of 11.6%.

“The best way to avoid severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 infection is to get vaccinated and receive a booster vaccine as soon as you are eligible,” the St. Mary spokesperson said, adding that people should wear a mask and follow public health protocols for handwashing and social distancing.

In Long Beach, over 80% of eligible residents aged 5 and up have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Over 71% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated against the virus.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with information about the city’s first case of the omicron subvariant BA.2.

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Brandon Richardson is a business reporter, covering everything from real estate and healthcare to the airport and port to city hall and the economy. He is a Long Beach native who has been with the Business Journal since graduating from Long Beach City College in spring 2016 with an associate’s degree in journalism. He is an avid record collector and concert goer.