Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health.

COVID-19 has become the leading cause of death in Los Angeles County, surpassing the flu, emphysema, COPD and coronary heart disease over the past few weeks.

That grim announcement was made by Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health during a Thursday afternoon news conference. The county announced 68 new deaths due to COVID-19 and 1,081 new cases, bringing the county’s total to 797 deaths and 17,508 reported cases of COVID-19.

Ferrer said that since the county announced on April 12 that 31 people had died in the county, it has now reported an average of 44 deaths per day leading up to Thursday’s announcement.

During that 11-day span, the flu, emphysema, COPD and coronary heart disease averaged 44 deaths per day combined. Ferrer said that the past two weeks have included two-thirds of all of the county’s COVID-19 deaths as the mortality rate begins to climb in the county while local and state leaders have outlined how and when the economy can be opened back up for business.

“More people are dying everyday from COVID 19 than other diseases that we track,” Ferrer said.

While the county reported over 1,000 new cases Thursday, it was actually a decrease from the previous day’s report of 1,300.

Gov. Gavin Newsom released mixed numbers from the state level Thursday. Newsom noted that it had also been the deadliest 24-hour period for the state as 115 people died prior to his afternoon press briefing, an 8.5% increase over the previous day.

Newsom added that positive cases also increased statewide by 5.6%. There are now over 39,000 confirmed cases in California and over 1,500 deaths.

However, the governor said that both hospitalizations and those in hospital intensive car units because of the virus have decreased. Newsom said the state was showing some stabilization of the curve, but it was not forceful enough for him to consider lifting provisions of the stay at home order that currently will run through May 15.

“With deaths and positives still going up, I caution to people that we’re not out of the woods and for them to continue to do what they’ve been doing to get us to this point,” Newsom said.

While the numbers were encouraging, the governor said the state had failed to meet all the markers that he laid out in his plan to potentially open up the economy that was revealed last week.

He said that there won’t be a return to normalcy right away when the stay at home order is amended but that it will be more of a “normal with caveats” and that there likely won’t be a normal until there’s a vaccine.

“The disease killed more people in the past 24 hours than the previous 24 hours,” Newsom said. “The disease continues to spread and we need to continue to spread the word of vigilance.”

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.