LOS ANGELES - Nearly 8,000 people in Los Angeles County have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, public health officials said Thursday, as they announced 425 new cases and 25 additional deaths since the day prior.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that the county's death count now stands at 223, but did not provide specific details regarding the newly reported deaths.
Ferrer said that 77% of all positive cases in the county have been individuals between the ages of 18 and 65, stressing that the illness impacts residents of all age groups.
The mortality rate among coronavirus patients in the county continued to rise, reaching 2.8% on Thursday, Ferrer said. This means that 2.8% of the people who have tested positive for the illness in the county have died. Last week, the mortality rate was 1.8%.
Ferrer said the rising percentage is concerning, but it could come down once more people are tested.
Also rising is the number of cases among the homeless, with 20 such cases reported, up from 12 on Wednesday. Most of those patients were living on the streets, Ferrer said, but officials are investigating four homeless people who are believed to have been living in shelters.
One of those patients was living at a shelter that was established by the city of Los Angeles at the Granada Hills Recreation Center, which underwent a deep cleaning after the case was confirmed. The shelter is one of several temporary housing sites set up at city recreation facilities in an effort to prevent the disease from spreading among the homeless.
Ferrer noted that while the cases involving four patients believed to have been living in shelters are under investigation, "a number of people at a couple of shelter sites" have been placed in quarantine and tested.
Ferrer also confirmed the death of a homeless-services worker -- identified earlier as an employee of the Union Rescue Mission on skid row in downtown Los Angeles. Mission President Andy Bales told the Los Angeles Times the employee, who was formerly homeless and began working for the mission after completing a recovery program, died at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.
The county's coronavirus cases now include 47 cases that occurred in jail settings -- six inmates and 41 staff members -- along with 11 cases in the state prison system -- eight inmates and three staffers. Two cases have been reported in a county juvenile facility, both involving staff members at the Barry Nidorf juvenile hall in Sylmar.
As of Wednesday, roughly 38,300 people have been tested for the virus in the county, with about 15% turning out to be positive. Ferrer again noted that the percentage of positive cases is artificially high because some labs haven't reported numbers of negative tests.
The county has set a goal of testing 10,000 people per day. With roughly 10% of those people ultimately testing positive, Ferrer has warned that the daily increases in case numbers will likely approach about 1,000.
Echoing guidance from the White House, Ferrer on Monday said people should try to avoid leaving their homes altogether for the next two weeks as the pandemic is expected to worsen across the country.
"If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether," she said.
Public Health advised residents against leaving their homes for groceries or medications, encouraging residents to arrange to have them delivered instead, if necessary.
Public Health continues to stress to the public that while a majority of those who have died from COVID-19 in the county had underlying health conditions, not everyone does. Residents are urged to continue to take the necessary precautions in order to protect themselves from the virus.
Health officials say that social distancing remains our best defense against the virus, and all residents are instructed to abide by current measures in place across the state. Social distancing is not only about preventing the illness itself, but rather, slowing the rate at which people get sick.
On April 3, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it would be recommending people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
The use of face coverings is believed to help slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus, without knowing it, from transmitting it to others.
This comes as more evidence is emerging that coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms. Last week, the CDC changed how it was defining risk of infection for Americans, saying anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not.
In accordance with new guidelines from the CDC, Public Health said that anyone who begins to experience symptoms must contact those they were in contact with up to 48 hours prior to having symptoms in order for them to self-isolate.
Public Health requests that anyone who experiences any symptoms of COVID-19 to self-isolate for the 14-day quarantine period in order to help slow the spread.
According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should call their healthcare provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken.
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Public Health has issued the following guidance during this time of increased spread:
"If you are mildly sick, stay home for at least seven days or until 72 hours after being fever free, whichever is longer. Call your doctor if you are concerned and/or your symptoms worsen. Individuals who are elderly, have underlying health conditions or pregnant should consider contacting their providers earlier when they are sick."
Click here for a list of locations of confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County.
CNS contributed to this report.