For the first time ever, LA County reports more than 300 daily COVID-19 deaths

Los Angeles County today reported 318 COVID-19 deaths, surpassing 300 for the first time as health officials brace for more days of extremely high death tolls.

“Sadly, I think it’s likely to continue over the next week or two,” said Dr. Paul Simon, the county’s science officer.

The record-high tally of deaths is likely just the start of the consequences that health officials expected from people gathering over the winter holidays, which heaped a renewed surge on top of an already burgeoning wave of COVID-19 cases, Simon said.

Because the LA area had been so successful in tamping down cases earlier in the pandemic, Simon theorized more people were still susceptible to the disease when the latest wave hit.

“In a sense, this is a population that was sort of the kindling for a wildfire to begin,” according to Simon.

He said a deadly stack of compounding events—including celebrations for sports teams, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s—spread that fire by encouraging people to gather.

“We never really saw relief after Thanksgiving,” he said.

LA County was also ripe for disaster because of its crowded housing, which facilitates spread of the virus among families and roommates, according to Simon.

The county also reported 18,313 new COVID-19 cases Friday, an extremely high number compared to most of the rest of the pandemic—although not a record high.

“I think in some ways, we’ve become desensitized to the numbers,” Simon said of people still not following social distancing rules.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, was not expected to report numbers Friday because it’s a furlough day for city staff.

However, between Monday and Thursday, the city reported 52 coronavirus deaths—just two fewer than the record high of 54 reported last week. In all, Long Beach has reported a total 447 fatal cases of COVID-19. LA County has reported 11,863, which includes Long Beach’s tally.

The rate of deaths could soon intensify with overwhelmed hospitals now preparing for the possibility of rationing care as they remain essentially full.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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