Long Beach officials today announced seven more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the city’s total since March to 506. With 59 reported deaths, this week is now the city’s deadliest since the start of the pandemic 10 months ago.

“This has been a difficult week for our city,” Mayor Robert Garcia said in an emailed statement. “Losing over 500 of our neighbors and family members is devastating.”

The previous deadliest period was the week of Dec. 28 when the city reported 54 deaths. The week of Jan. 4 saw 52 deaths.

Before December, the city averaged less than 10 deaths per week, with the highest number of deaths—22—reported the week of May 18. During the summer surge, the deadliest week came at the end of July when the city reported 16 fatalities.

Thursday’s sobering milestones come the same day the city announced the expansion of its vaccine rollout, boasting a smooth process compared to other cities and the state as a whole.

City officials also on Thursday reported 656 new COVID-19 cases. Hospitalizations at the five area hospitals decreased for the second day in a row from 569 Wednesday to 560. The city’s seven-day positivity rate also decreased from 16.3% to 15.9%. However, the daily cases per thousand residents increased to its highest point of 141.6.

“Let’s continue to honor the lives we’ve lost by doing all we can to protect each other in every way we can,” Garcia said. “My prayers and love goes out to all who have lost someone.”

At the county level, with 287 reported Thursday, coronavirus-related deaths have surpassed the 13,000 mark, now at 13,234. In the last seven days, nearly 1,700 LA County residents have died of the virus.

Health officials also reported 17,323 new cases, bringing the total to 975,299. If recent trends continue, the countywide case total will surpass one million in two or three days.

County hospitalizations have seemingly stabilized between 7,900 and 8,000, and dipped slightly from 7,949 Wednesday to 7,906. Of those hospitalized, 21% are in the ICU.

Using a weighted algorithm, state data continues to show the Southern California region has 0% ICU availability. During a press conference Thursday, Garcia noted the Long Beach-area ICUs have zero capacity; the city uses the same weighted algorithm as the state.

Even if the stabilization of hospitalizations continues, it is not sustainable, said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director the county Department of Health Services, adding that it not only jeopardizes the health of those with COVID-19 but all patients who need hospital-level care.

“We have not yet seen the effect of the period of transmission that happened around the Christmas and New Year holiday,” Ghaly said during a press conference Wednesday.

The most recent surge in cases began picking up steam around two weeks after Thanksgiving—about the same amount of time that has passed since Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Long Beach-area hospitals are taking no chances, with Los Alamitos Medical Center expected to open a 25-patient mobile field unit in its parking lot this weekend. Long Beach Memorial has had expanded emergency services in its parking lot for months. All area hospitals are prepared for crisis care should the new surge overwhelm facilities more than they already are.

Brandon Richardson is a reporter and photojournalist for the Long Beach Post and Long Beach Business Journal.