Long Beach reports 18 deaths; COVID-19 cases doubled in one month

Long Beach’s total number of reported COVID-19 cases doubled from 17,550 on Dec. 4 to 35,136 on Monday as the city continued to struggle with the massive surge.

The city reported 18 new deaths for a total of 420 fatalities, but noted that the higher number was due to a state backlog. Hospitalizations also increased, with 573 people hospitalized in five area hospitals on Tuesday, up from 541 on Monday.

Of the 420 deaths, 205 were connected to long-term care facilities.

The city’s seven-day positive case rate, meanwhile, has jumped to 17.5%, meaning nearly one in five people who are tested are testing positive for COVID.

Hospitalization numbers also continued soaring in Los Angeles County on Tuesday, with the number of COVID patients in hospitals passing the 8,000 mark and medical centers contending with limited staffing and difficulties discharging less-critically ill patients to free up beds.

The county reported another 224 coronavirus-related deaths, one of the highest single-day numbers of the pandemic.

It was unclear if the unusually high total was the result of a delay in reporting from the holiday weekend. But health officials noted that more than 1,000 people have died from the virus in the past week alone, pushing the countywide death toll to 11,071.

According to numbers released by the state Tuesday, Los Angeles County had a pandemic-high 8,023 COVID patients in hospitals, including 1,642 in intensive-care units.

The county’s 70 “911-receiving” hospitals with emergency rooms have a total licensed capacity of about 2,500 ICU beds, although in recent weeks they have implemented surge plans and staffed a daily average of about 3,000 ICU beds.

As of Tuesday morning, however, there were no longer any local hospitals on “internal disaster” status, which occurred at some facilities over the weekend, effectively shutting them off to all levels of ambulance traffic. But the situation remained critical at hospitals as they struggled to handle the unending stream of new patients.

“Countywide, for all hospitals, the issues are really the same,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county health services director, told the Board of Supervisors. “All hospitals are working through staffing issues, many are working through infrastructure and oxygen-supply issues, which are complicated and numerous.”

Ghaly said Monday that almost all hospitals over the weekend diverted advanced life-support ambulances due to overcrowding in the emergency department.

She told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that in addition to the continued stream of new patients, hospitals are coping with various other problems, including continuing issues with oxygen supplies and delivery systems.

Hospitals also have continued to experience backlogs of ambulances in emergency bays, some waiting hours to off-load patients due to lack of space.

In Long Beach, a growing number of city employees are testing positive for COVID. The city on Tuesday reported that two public-facing Parks and Recreation employees and a Long Beach Airport employee tested positive. On Monday, it was reported that 10 employees were infected at Long Beach Fire Station 14 near Colorado Lagoon.

– City News Service contributed to this report 

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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