For the third time this week, Los Angeles County shattered another record Friday with nearly 9,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases, officials announced.

The county reported 8,860 new coronavirus infections on Friday, topping the previous day’s troubling record of 7,854 new cases.

The number of people hospitalized due to the virus stood at 2,668, the highest point of the entire pandemic. This is the fourth consecutive day the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 surpassed the all-time high, the county health officials said in a news release.

“We have more cases this last week than we had in the entire month of October, and each day we’re seeing more people in the hospital and ICU beds,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said during a briefing early Friday evening.

The county on Friday also recorded 60 additional deaths, continuing a worrying upward trend that began in late November. Two weeks ago, the county’s average number of daily deaths was 21.

“If we stay on this case trajectory, L.A. is projected to reach half a million cases by the year’s end,” Garcetti said. “If things don’t change by year’s end, the lives lost will surpass 11,000 deaths. That means 3000 additional deaths in a single month. To put that in perspective it’s a decade of homicides, it is more deaths than we ever could expect in excess of normal causes of death before its pandemic.”

The mayor has typically been delivering one coronavirus update a week. But this was his second since Wednesday.

During his last briefing, Garcetti announced an $800 stipend being offered to select food service workers. He didn’t preview a NotifyLA emergency alert that was sent to many Angelenos a couple of hours after his Wednesday address. The alert warned the public of new restrictions, but a Garcetti spokesman said the restrictions had gone into place days earlier.

“So often in this crisis, it can be so confusing. Orders come down from the state, from our county. We’re not sure what they mean when they come into effect. Oftentimes, with no notice our life just changes like that we can and can’t do, what we’re supposed to and not supposed to do,” Garcetti said Friday. “And so each of these evening briefings I try to give you the whole truth, but also explain what’s going on.”

“Nothing has changed for L.A. yet,” Garcetti continued, referencing the announcement that the state will be divided into five regions with new restrictions put in place based on ICU bed capacity. 

The order would go into effect and would remain in effect for at least three weeks in California regions where ICU capacity falls below 15%. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday most of the state’s regions will likely get below that threshold within a day or two.

As of late Friday, the Southern California region fell below the state’s threshold with 13.6% actual ICU capacity remaining, down from 20.6% the previous day, according to the state’s COVID-19 website.

During his Friday address, Garcetti predicted that the region would be under 15% ICU capacity “this weekend or as early as next week.”

“As I mentioned before in the previous briefing, at this rate, we’ll be out of beds in two to four weeks. We have 644 patients from COVID-19 in the ICU who are severely sick and are hanging on right now,” Garcetti said. “This is a major increase since last month, and each day we’re seeing these numbers increase.”

As of Friday, L.A. County health officials have identified 430,824 positive cases of COVID-19 and 7,843 deaths since the pandemic began.

As the number of coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to increase, county health officials continue to warn residents against travel, especially in the upcoming holiday season.

“Los Angeles County continues to experience a pandemic that is moving in a direction that will cause significantly more suffering and deaths,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in Friday’s news release. “As case numbers and hospitalizations continue to rapidly increase, the number of individuals who will experience severe health outcomes will also increase.”

“The best thing to do right now and in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,” Ferrer said. “Encourage your family and friends to stay connected virtually and delay meeting in person until we are at a better place in the pandemic.”

The alarming trends come as the county has moved to renew restrictions, with a new “safer-at-home” order that went into effect Monday and a ban on dining at restaurants instituted a week ago. 

More concerning, county health officials are still waiting to see what impact the Thanksgiving holiday will have on case rates and hospitalizations.

Meanwhile, Garcetti announced that the city of L.A. is joining the county in a new digital contact tracing program with Healthvana.

If a person were to test positive for COVID-19, that person will get a message from Healthvana and be prompted to enter the names and phone numbers of everyone that they were in contact with, Garcetti explained. Those people will instantly and anonymously get text messaged notifying them that they have been exposed to the virus and should get tested.

“In the coming weeks we’re going to make it possible for them to also get a free test by mail, so they don’t even have to leave their house in order to see what their status is,” Garcetti said.

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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