Spread of coronavirus in county begins to slow

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

During a news conference on Monday, public health officials started off with some rare good news.

“We are at the start of a new week and a new month, and we are cautiously optimistic that we are getting back on track to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said. “We are still seeing that on average last week 2,000 people were hospitalized each day. But, the good news is those numbers have started to come down and we are not seeing the increases that we saw just a few weeks ago.”

Ms. Ferrer highlighted the fact that the seven-day average of new cases has dipped to 2,600 per day after peaking a few weeks ago at 3,000. The positivity rate has remained high at 8.8 percent but has not increased even as more people are getting tested.

The best news, however, is that hospitalizations are falling, which is a key indicator of health system capacity, according to health officials. After reaching an average of 2,200 people hospitalized in the middle of July, that number now stands closer to 2,000 based on the seven-day average. On Wednesday there were just 1,768 people hospitalized, with thirty percent in ICU and eighteen percent on ventilators.

“We do hope that because we are seeing the number of people hospitalized stabilize, that we will start to see fewer people passing away,” Ms. Ferrer said.

Ms. Ferrer credited residents and businesses following the guidance in the health order as the main reason the spread of the virus has slowed.

“Simply put, closing the bars worked. It also worked to limit indoor dining at restaurants, and to move the operations of various businesses and institutions outdoors,” she said.

In Claremont the spread seems to have slowed as well. The 265 cumulative cases reported Wednesday in the city and its unincorporated areas reflects a roughly eight percent increase over a week ago. In mid July, Claremont was regularly seeing increases at or near 20 percent week over week. There has been one addition death in Claremont, bringing the total to five.

The city has a new institutional outbreak, with Claremont Place on San Jose Avenue reporting two staff members and one resident testing positive.

The county also reported Wednesday that at Mt. San Antonio Gardens, eight staff members and 10 residents have been confirmed with the virus. Pilgrim Place is still reporting zero cases on its campus.

Officials at Front Porch, the parent company of Claremont Manor, contacted the COURIER with further details about the outbreak at the Manor.

“Communication on the changing conditions related to COVID-19 has been sent throughout the pandemic via our emergency alert system to our community [including] residents, families, and staff,” Senior Vice President for Sales and Marketing Justin Weber said.

The outbreak was first caught when a staff member tested positive during the ongoing weekly testing of residents and staff. Currently, the county is reporting six staff members in the Claremont Manor Care center positive for the virus, and six in the Manor’s retirement community who are also positive. Two residents at the Manor also have COVID-19, one in the care center and one in the retirement community.

The staff members who tested positive are no longer providing care and have been instructed to self isolate.

“We are following all LA County Public Health requirements and isolating the positive resident as well as all residents who have had any potential contact. In addition, we are limiting staff who specifically care for the residents to the same staff members and not allowing them to care for other residents,” Mr. Weber said about the outbreak in the skilled nursing facility.

Over the past week the outbreak at the Manor, which has 280 residents, appears to have stabilized with only one new case among the staff.

The good news was tempered somewhat when public health announced that over the past two weeks new coronavirus cases had been undercounted due to a technical glitch in the state of California’s electronic laboratory system.

“Public Health learned of new issues with the state ELR feed on an emergency call convened by the state last night. This issue has undercounted the county’s positive cases and affects the number of COVID-19 cases reported each day, and our contact tracing efforts,” the county said in a statement.

The department is now working independently to obtain accurate data and a team is working with at least 81 labs to obtain all COVID-19 test results from July 26 to the present to determine the accurate positive case count in Los Angeles County. Once the data reporting issues are corrected, the number of cases is expected to increase.

“Public Health is also implementing a system for all labs to report positive test results to the department immediately so that moving forward the department can have an accurate case count and be assured that contact tracing efforts are not delayed,” the statement read.

On Wednesday the county reported 68 deaths and 2,347 new cases of COVID-19. Residents between the ages of 18 and 49 make up nearly 60 percent of the new cases, and people 30 to 49 years old are driving most of these reported cases.

Since its first coronavirus update on March 4, the county has recorded 197,912 cumulative cases of COVID-19, and a total of 4,825 deaths.


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