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More Than 50 Coronavirus Deaths Reported in L.A. County; Highest 1-Day Total

Reporter Roundup is a collaboration between PBS SoCal/KCET and KPCC/LAist to bring you the biggest headlines M-F about COVID-19. Watch the April 15 episode here.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - More than 50 deaths due to coronavirus were reported in Los Angeles County today, the highest single-day total to date, providing a grim reminder of the virus' threat, even as local and national authorities lay out paths for reopening businesses and lifting stay-at-home orders.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, reported 55 new deaths from the virus, although three of those fatalities were reported Wednesday afternoon by officials in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.

Even with the three previously announced cases, Thursday marked the county's highest one-day fatality number since the pandemic began. The newly announced deaths pushed the county's overall total to 455, while also increasing the mortality rate -- the percentage of people with the illness who have died -- to 4.2%, well above the 1.8% rate reported at the beginning of April.

Ferrer noted that 88% of the people who have died in the county had underlying health conditions. She also continued to note a higher death rate among the black population.

"We are working with our community partners to respond to the disproportionate number of deaths among African-Americans," Ferrer said. "This includes addressing issues related to access to testing, health services
and accurate information about COVID-19."

Of the 390 deaths for which race information is available, 33% were Latinx, 31% were white, 17% were Asian and 16% were black, with 3% listing some other ethnicity, Ferrer said.

She noted that 35% of all of the county's deaths -- 158 -- occurred among residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. A total of 1,963 cases have been reported at institutional settings in the county, including nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, shelters, jails and prisons.

Ferrer reported 399 new cases of coronavirus countywide, bringing the overall total to 10,854.

A total of 33 cases have been confirmed among the homeless, including seven who lived at six shelters across the area. There have been 71 cases to date in jail facilities in the county, with 15 inmates and 56 staff members
testing positive, while 50 cases have occurred in prisons, among 39 inmates and 11 staff. Ferrer said one death was reported at a federal prison. She said the person who died was a staff member, however, federal prison officials announced Wednesday that an inmate at the Terminal Island prison in San Pedro had died.

More than 70,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the county thus far, with roughly 11% turning out to be positive.

Ferrer reported Monday there have been 787 cases of the virus reported among health care workers, roughly one-third of them being nurses, while about 9% are doctors. She said three people have died, two who worked in hospitals and one correctional health worker. According to Ferrer, the case numbers involving health care workers will be updated weekly.

Both Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Ferrer this week discussed benchmarks that are being scrutinized to determine when stay-at-home and business-closure orders prompted by the virus might be lifted. Although such a move is still likely weeks away, Ferrer said continued adherence to the orders will help the region get to that point sooner.

But she again warned that a lifting of orders will not mean a return to normalcy.

"Every day we're getting closer to being able to see a time when more people are going to be able to go back to work and there will be more places that will be open," she said. "We're never going to be able to go back to exactly the way it was before COVID-19, but we are moving towards being on the other side of this pandemic. I want to thank you again for all you are doing to slow the spread of COVID-19. It is working and I hope you feel very proud of what you're accomplishing."

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