Death toll from COVID-19 rises as new cases of the virus appear to decline

Los Angeles County’s coronavirus death toll continues to rise, with another 38 fatalities reported Wednesday, along with an additional 2,277 cases of COVID-19.

Long Beach has reported six deaths so far this week, including four on Tuesday—the highest single day total since late March. A total of 983 residents have now died of the virus since March 2020.

The percentage of people in Long Beach testing positive for COVID-19, however, declined to 5.8%, down from close to 8.5% in early August. The city has reported close to 500 new cases so far this week for a total of 61,265 since the pandemic began.

Health officials say 90% of all COVID deaths during the pandemic have occurred in people with underlying health conditions. The most common conditions were hypertension (present in 55% of fatalities), diabetes (43%) and heart disease (29%), according to the Los Angeles County Health Department.

The percentages have seen little change since the beginning of March, when COVID vaccines became widely available.

The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals dropped to 1,673 on Wednesday, down from 1,699 the previous day, according to state figures. That total including 446 people in intensive care, up two from Tuesday.

Also Wednesday, the county health department said 5,207 COVID-19 cases have been detected among K-12 students in Los Angeles County over the past two weeks, a number one top official called “sobering.”  Long Beach students returned to class on Tuesday, and the school district will begin screening for COVID-19—and that could cause the city’s caseload to rise, city health officials said earlier this week.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said screening tests within the Los Angeles Unified School District now account for nearly two-thirds of all the COVID testing being conducting across the county.

“We average about 500 cases a day (among students) across L.A.County,” she said. “… The largest portion of those cases are identified through routine screening, and these are really people who are in fact asymptomatic. So it’s a sobering number because it’s large, but it’s actually helpful to be able to identify people who are infected with COVID before they show symptoms and before they have lots of opportunities … to go ahead and spread that virus.”

She said the large number of cases also leads to more work for the county because all of the patients need to be interviewed so their close contacts can be identified and directed to quarantine.

Debra Duardo, superintendent of the county Office of Education, said mitigation strategies at the schools “have been very effective.”

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