4 California counties behind COVID hospitalization surge

According to an analysis of data from the Los Angeles Times, four southern California suburban counties are among the main culprits for a dangerous increase in California coronavirus hospitalizations. All four counties have seen significant increases in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in recent weeks.

The increases in Ventura, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties have contributed to an overall increase in state-wide hospitalizations registered after Memorial Day, just as officials were rapidly reopening the economy.

The causes of the spikes are not fully understood, but some health officials blame the social gatherings. A barbecue at a mobile home park in Oxnard recently resulted in 19 people testing positive for the virus, and authorities are now monitoring 40 other people who are close contacts of infected people.

Ventura County health officials have urged residents to enjoy reopened restaurants, which are governed by strict safety standards and social distancing, instead of hosting parties and other private events.

“It is as if we are cheating on our diet, and angry or bewildered that we cannot lose weight,” Dr. Robert Levin, the Ventura County health officer, said Tuesday. “There are all those times that we are not cheating. But [in] the few times we do it, all that effort is in vain. So what is the price we pay? Where we go? More COVID-19 cases. More people hospitalized. More people in our ICUs. More dead people.

While Los Angeles County saw an average of 62 fewer hospitalized patients daily for confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases between Memorial Day week and last week, Riverside County saw an average daily increase of 85 patients; San Bernardino, 70; Ventura, 33; and Orange, 32, according to The Times analysis.

In Ventura County, there was a daily average of 85 people hospitalized with COVID-19 related illnesses last week; Four weeks ago, there were 52.

During the week of May 25, California recorded a new low in weekly coronavirus hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic, with an average daily count of 4,385 patients. Last week, that number increased to 4,603, an increase of 218 patients.

The eight-county San Joaquin Valley is also an area of ​​concern, registering 160 additional patients during the same period, as does Santa Barbara County, with 25 more patients.

And there are other signs of trouble in the state: Orange County recently recorded its deadliest week in the pandemic, with 48 deaths reported in the seven-day period ending Sunday. The county has seen three consecutive weeks in which the death toll has been higher than the previous week.

The Bay Area’s third most populous county, Contra Costa County, saw its weekly death toll soar to 18 last week, its worst since the week of April 13, when nine people were reported killed.

The pandemic also continues to plague rural counties, which are critical to the nation’s food supply.

Imperial County recorded 21 deaths last week, its highest weekly death toll, and more than double the number of fatalities from the previous week of 10. Kings County, where a severe coronavirus outbreak occurred at a plant A meatpacker, it recorded 10 deaths among its residents last week, more than doubling its previous cumulative death toll.

San Quentin State Prison in Marin County is now the site of an outbreak that has infected 365 people, more than all Santa Cruz County residents who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The outbreak occurred after 121 inmates were transferred from the California Institution for Men in Chinese.

“The fact that 121 men were transferred to San Quentin from Chino without being tested is surprising,” state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said in a statement.

There are also troubling signs that hospitalizations may be starting to increase again in both Los Angeles County and Santa Clara County, the most populous county in Northern California, centered in Silicon Valley.

On June 13, Los Angeles County recorded its lowest daily coronavirus hospitalization numbers since April – 1,768 for patients with confirmed or suspected infections – after weeks of consecutive falls. But by Monday, there were 2,090 hospitalized, an increase of 18%.

Part of that increase could be due to more generalized testing. But authorities say the jump in the number of cases is also caused by increased transmission of the disease in recent weeks, in part due to the broader reopening of the economy and the increase in meetings, whether social or as result of political protests.

“The numbers tell us we are seeing an increase in community broadcast,” Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said this week. Almost two weeks ago, only 5.8% of coronavirus tests tested positive in the previous week in Los Angeles County. But on Monday, that number had risen to 8.4%.

The latest projections from the University of Washington Institute for Health Measurement and Assessment say California can see more than 15,100 deaths as of October 1, a 170% increase from the current number of deaths, which was more than 5,600 as of Tuesday night. Nationwide, the institute projects more than 201,000 deaths by that same date, an increase of 65% from the current number of deaths from more than 121,000.

Santa Clara County has done much better in controlling the spread of the virus than Los Angeles County. Santa Clara County has eight coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents, while Los Angeles County has 31 deaths per 100,000 residents. Part of that success is related to Northern California’s previous implementation of a regional order to stay home, credited with saving many lives.

However, even Santa Clara County is beginning to see an uptick in cases as the economy reopens.

On Tuesday, Santa Clara County recorded its highest number of cases in the midst of the pandemic, 121, after spending much of last month with an average of seven days of daily new cases hovering around 25.

“Now, we will go back up in a pattern similar to the rest of the state,” said Dr. Jeffrey Smith, the county executive officer. “We are at our highest peak right now.”

The root of the problem is that Californians are gradually returning to their old habits, with mobility rates starting to rise and an expected return to normal in October, Smith said, citing forecasts published on the Covid Act Now website.

Dr. Sara Cody, a Santa Clara County health officer, said the increase in cases was “troubling.”

“This increase may be accelerating. This increase reflects widespread testing, we are finding more of the cases than there are, but it also reflects an increase in cases because the virus continues to spread. It is a little early to know if this will translate into a significant increase in hospitalizations and deaths in the future, “said Cody.

Although there are fewer cases associated with nursing homes and other long-term care facilities since May, there are now more outbreaks associated with workplaces or in the community, Cody said.

Outbreaks in the workplace began to be detected a week after the county allowed construction companies to return to work, according to Cody.

Of 89 job sites that have reported at least one coronavirus infection, 34 of them have been under construction, 10 in food service or restaurants, eight in retail stores and businesses, and six in food processing plants.

In outbreaks with three or more cases with workplace exposures, 54% of them have occurred at construction job sites; but the largest outbreaks have occurred in food processing centers.

The coronavirus pandemic is like a forest fire, Cody said. “If you contain it when it is small, you can keep it under control. But once the COVID transmission starts to accelerate, it is very, very difficult to contain and slow down, “he said.

He added that it is important to ensure that as society returns to work, people adhere to strategies to reduce the risk of the virus.

“None of us want to be forced to return to a full shelter in place. Therefore, it is critical that we have strong protocols and firmly established risk reduction strategies as we continue to reopen, ”said Cody.

In Ventura County, officials are increasingly concerned about meetings as the number of hospitalizations increases to record levels. Levin, the health officer, said he was appalled over the weekend to see people packed, shoulder to shoulder, watching a skateboard competition.

In addition to additional infections in long-term care facilities, “we believe that there is also increased community transmission in the community, making people sick enough to ensure they are admitted to the hospital for care sharp, and that’s very worrying. ” said Rigoberto Vargas, Ventura County director of public health.

If people don’t improve in social distancing, Levin said he is concerned that Ventura County hospitals are so overwhelmed with coronavirus patients that those with other illnesses, such as those with a heart attack, could “unnecessarily die from lack from a hospital bed. ” “

Levin said Ventura County can avoid this future, and a re-implementation of stricter orders to stay home, if the public is once again engaged in keeping their distance from others.

“We should avoid meetings. I think we should stop going out to do frivolous and unnecessary things, “said Levin. “We deserve our freedom. But the reality is that we still can’t have it. This is a classic case of deferring our reward, deferring our reward until this damn situation is alleviated and allows us to have our freedom again. ”

Younger adults are becoming a pathway for the spread of the virus. In Los Angeles County, 40% of coronavirus cases occur between 18 and 40.

That coincides with the experience in Japan, where a study published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. USA He found that the people who likely spread the coronavirus in more than 60 groups were mostly young adults, ages 20 to 39. Most were asymptomatic or presymptomatic when they transmitted the virus, and almost none had a cough.

The broadcast likely happened in places like restaurants, bars, workplaces, health centers, gyms, and music events. Many groups were associated with heavy breathing near others, such as singing at karaoke parties, cheering at a concert, chatting at a bar, or exercising in a gym.

Lin reported from San Francisco, Lee from Los Angeles, and Greene from Thousand Oaks.