A person is dying every 8 minutes from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, officials warned on Thursday as the region again faced a double-digit rise in new daily cases. According to the county health department, LA saw 11,841 new cases reported on Wednesday, and 258 deaths.
In total, LA has seen over 11,320 deaths over the last 10 months. Emergency services have been directed to ration oxygen supply and paramedics were advised to avoid bringing patients who have little chance of resuscitation to hospitals.
“Today, I’m more troubled than ever before,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said Wednesday, according to the LA Times. “This is a health crisis of epic proportions and we need everyone – I mean everyone – to use the tools right in front of them to help us drive down transmission of this deadly virus.”
Health officials and public leaders have been pleading with the public to stay home as the nation’s most populous county of 10 million battles a post-holiday surge. More than 8,000 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 and the region has hit ICU capacity.
“The numbers are extraordinary,” Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association, told the Associated Press about the statewide spread. “We’re not going to dodge this math. We need the state’s help.”
Like many other states in the U.S., California is struggling to get its vaccine effort off the ground, having gotten just 1% of the population inoculated with first doses. Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted this week that the rollout has “gone too slowly.” The state has since worked to allow more medical providers eligibility to administer the shots, such as dentists.
“We are working aggressively to accelerate our pace,” Newsom said. “You’re going to start seeing more rapid distribution of this vaccine, I can assure you that now.”
But the surge is expected to last through the coming weeks, and comes amid concern about the U.K. strain that has already been documented in at least 26 California residents. To achieve full inoculation against the virus, a person must receive two doses of the vaccine, spaced three weeks apart.
The new variant is said to be highly transmissible and, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, may even be able to overtake the original strain of coronavirus in a matter of weeks.