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More Deaths Reported in L.A. County Due to Coronavirus

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The number of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County climbed over 800 today, while health officials reported three additional deaths and announced more stringent quarantine and isolation rules for people who either have the virus or are presumed to be infected.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health, said the three new deaths were all people over age 65 with underlying health conditions. The deaths brought the county's total to 13 -- with Ferrer saying the death of a 17-year-old boy in Lancaster that was reported Tuesday is no longer considered a coronavirus case, pending a determination by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ferrer said 138 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed by the county Department of Public Health, bringing the total to 799. However, the city of Long Beach announced 13 new cases not yet included in the county's number, meaning the actual total in the county is 812.

Long Beach, which maintains a health department separate from the county, has a total of 41 cases. The city reported Wednesday that eight city firefighters had tested positive for the virus. Only four of them live in the city, so only those four are included in the city's total number of cases.

Ferrer said the county's health officer will issue an order "that requires the self-isolation of any person that has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed by their physician or clinician to be positive for COVID-19."

The order also requires a 14-day quarantine for all close contacts of a confirmed or presumed COVID-19 patient, including household members and caregivers.

"So if you've been tested for COVID-19 and you're waiting for your test results or you've been told by a provider that you should presume that you're positive for COVID-19, we ask that you follow the directives to self-isolate. This means staying at home for at least seven days and until you're fever- and symptom-free for 72 hours. Do not leave your home. Please do not leave your home unless its for a medical appointment," Ferrer said.

"We ask that you notify all of your close contacts that you have COVID-19 or are likely to have COVID-19 so your close contacts can in fact begin their quarantine," she said.

According to Ferrer, the order requires any such close contacts to immediately begin a 14-day quarantine period.

"It's really important that people understand -- 14 days is what's required because it can take up to 14 days for you to develop any symptoms of COVID-19 from your exposure," Ferrer said. "If you develop symptoms, you immediately move into needing now to be isolated and you have an additional seven days that you must stay isolated, and that includes you must be three days free from fever and symptoms before you can in fact leave your household."

Los Angeles County health officials on Tuesday reported the death of a teenager in Lancaster as what was believed to be the nation's first juvenile death from coronavirus. But late Tuesday afternoon, they walked back the diagnosis, saying it needed further confirmation.

"Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality," according to the county. "Patient privacy prevents our offering further details at this time."

Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris told various media outlets the boy was 17 years old and died of septic shock. He said the boy'd father is also infected with coronavirus.

Ferrer on Tuesday called the case "a devastating reminder that COVID-19 affects people of all ages." Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti added: "To the young people that are out there -- this can hit you too. Know that your behavior can save a life and can take a life, and that life could be yours."

As of Tuesday, there were 2,102 cases statewide, with 40 deaths, according to the California Department of Public Health.

Ferrer noted Wednesday that of the people who have tested positive in Los Angeles County, 1% have died -- a higher mortality rate than the flu. She said the national mortality rate is about 1.5%.

Ferrer has repeatedly stressed that the number of cases in the county is likely to continue rising due to the increasing availability of testing. She said that as of Tuesday, about 6,300 people had been tested in the county, with about 11% turning out to be positive for the illness.

She noted that despite the ever-increasing availability of testing, it still "remains limited," and she continued to insist that testing be limited to people showing symptoms of the illness or who have been ordered by their doctor to be tested.

Health officials have insisted since the outbreak began that while older people, those with underlying health conditions and pregnant women can suffer more severe consequences from contracting coronavirus, the threat of being diagnosed with the illness is spread across all age groups. And while younger patients may suffer lesser symptoms, they can still spread the illness to people who may become more severely ill.

Residents of the county and across the state are under orders to remain at home as much as possible, and engage in social distancing when they're outside the home.

The restrictions were ramped up over the weekend in response to continued large-scale gatherings of people at beaches -- most notably the Venice boardwalk -- and on hiking trails.

Saturday's enhanced order also clarified that golf courses and personal grooming services -- including hair and nail salons -- are nonessential services and are closed. Businesses considered essential and permitted to remain open include hardware stores, repair shops, media outlets, banks, laundromats, dry-cleaners and pet supply stores.

In a related development, all Roman Catholic churches in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles will be closed until further notice because of the coronavirus outbreak, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez announced Tuesday night. "Our community of faith is fully committed to doing all we can to limit the spread of this global public health threat," Gomez said.

"We are taking these extraordinary steps to ensure the safety and well-being of the faithful and the public, as well as all who continue to serve in our parishes and ministries."

Gomez encouraged all Catholics "to continue to pray and join in communion for the celebration of Holy Mass remotely via the internet, television or radio."

Also, the Malibu Pier, including its shops and restaurants, is closing to the public starting today to prevent crowding during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pier is considered a state park, and Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman coordinated with California State Parks to close it, according to Matt Myerhoff, Malibu's media information officer.

The closure comes after the pier was crowded with visitors last weekend, Myerhoff said.

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