A feared holiday surge of coronavirus infections has begun in Los Angeles County, where about one in five residents getting tested for Covid-19 are now testing positive, officials in the hard-hit region announced Monday, calling the situation a “human disaster” and predicting the death toll could soar to more than 1,000 people per week.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Covid-19 hospitalizations in the county have reached an all-time high with 7,697 patients, 21% of whom are in intensive care, a figure she called “distressing.”
“The anticipated surge from the winter holiday gatherings has begun,” said Ferrer. “The increases in cases are likely to continue for weeks to come as a result of holiday and New Year’s Eve parties and returning travelers.”
County health officials reported 77 new deaths on Monday, raising the total number in the county to 10,850, and an additional 9,142 cases. Ferrer pointed out Monday’s lower than average numbers reflect a lag in reporting from the holiday weekend and the closure of some testing sites.
According to Ferrer, one person is now dying from the virus every 15 minutes in L.A. County.
“We’re likely to experience the worst conditions in January that we’ve faced the entire pandemic, and that’s hard to imagine,” she said.
According to the L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office, with hospitals and mortuaries full of bodies, the county coroner’s office has been storing additional victims, a growing toll that has risen to 757 bodies, a coroner’s spokesperson told CNN.
L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis called the situation in the county, which has doubled its total number of Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in the last month alone, “a human disaster.”
“Hospitals are declaring internal disasters and having to open church gyms to serve as hospital units. Our health care workers are physically and mentally exhausted and sick,” she said.
With infections continuing to surge out of control in the nation’s most populous county, Solis warned the situation, which is already “beyond our imagination, could become beyond comprehension.”
This post has been updated to reflect that one in five LA residents who were tested for the virus tested positive.