LA is investigating whether super-infectious COVID strain from UK is behind surge in cases

Public health officials in California are investigating whether the super-infectious COVID-19 strain from the United Kingdom is behind a surge in cases there with hospitals statewide overrun with coronavirus patients.

A terrifying graph by 91-DIVOC shows how daily cases are surging far beyond any other state with the seven day average of positive tests at around the 40,000 mark. The next state, Texas, is at 11,990 as of Sunday. 

The situation is so dire that the top public health official in LA, the country’s most populous county, said that on average one COVID-19 patient is dying every 10 minutes and hospital staff are being forced to place gurneys into gift shops.

Health inspectors and authorities stepped up enforcement at restaurants and shopping malls over the post-Christmas weekend as they desperately seek to curb a coronavirus surge that already has filled some hospitals in California well beyond normal capacity.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told The LA Times tests are being carried out to see if the new mutant strain – which may spread up to 70 per cent more easily than other strains of the virus – is there. 

She said: ‘I think everyone at this point that’s seeing these kinds of surges is obviously looking to see, “Do we have that particular variant?” When I spoke with the state Department of Public Health, they indicated that they’ve been looking and didn’t think they had seen [it]. But you know, you have to know what you’re looking for.’

When population is taken into account California’s case rate, 100.5 average new confirmed per 100,000 people a day over the past seven days, is surpassed only by Tennessee at 119.7. 

One out of every 1,000 Americans has now died of COVID-19 with December set to be the deadliest month since the pandemic began with 63,000 Americans dead because of the virus; November saw 36,964 deaths. 

On Christmas Eve, California became the first state in the nation to exceed 2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

A terrifying graph by 91-DIVOC shows how cases there are surging far beyond any other state with the seven day average of positive tests at around the 40,000 mark; the next state, Texas, is at 11,990 as of Sunday

A terrifying graph by 91-DIVOC shows how cases there are surging far beyond any other state with the seven day average of positive tests at around the 40,000 mark; the next state, Texas, is at 11,990 as of Sunday

A terrifying graph by 91-DIVOC shows how cases there are surging far beyond any other state with the seven day average of positive tests at around the 40,000 mark; the next state, Texas, is at 11,990 as of Sunday

When population is taken into account California's case rate, 100.5 average new confirmed per 100,000 people a day over the past seven days, is surpassed only by Tennessee, 119.7

When population is taken into account California's case rate, 100.5 average new confirmed per 100,000 people a day over the past seven days, is surpassed only by Tennessee, 119.7

When population is taken into account California’s case rate, 100.5 average new confirmed per 100,000 people a day over the past seven days, is surpassed only by Tennessee, 119.7

Hospitals in Southern California are being overrun with COVID-19 patients, forcing the governor to impose a statewide lockdown. An ambulance crew waits with a patient outside the Coast Plaza Hospital emergency room in Los Angeles on Saturday

Hospitals in Southern California are being overrun with COVID-19 patients, forcing the governor to impose a statewide lockdown. An ambulance crew waits with a patient outside the Coast Plaza Hospital emergency room in Los Angeles on Saturday

Hospitals in Southern California are being overrun with COVID-19 patients, forcing the governor to impose a statewide lockdown. An ambulance crew waits with a patient outside the Coast Plaza Hospital emergency room in Los Angeles on Saturday

Hospitals throughout California are operating at beyond normal capacity due to a surge in coronavirus cases. The above image shows patients being treated inside a hallway at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Tuesday

Hospitals throughout California are operating at beyond normal capacity due to a surge in coronavirus cases. The above image shows patients being treated inside a hallway at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Tuesday

Hospitals throughout California are operating at beyond normal capacity due to a surge in coronavirus cases. The above image shows patients being treated inside a hallway at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Tuesday

Ambulance crews wait to admit patients outside of the MLK Community Hospital emergency entrance during a surge of coronavirus disease cases in Los Angeles on Saturday

Ambulance crews wait to admit patients outside of the MLK Community Hospital emergency entrance during a surge of coronavirus disease cases in Los Angeles on Saturday

Ambulance crews wait to admit patients outside of the MLK Community Hospital emergency entrance during a surge of coronavirus disease cases in Los Angeles on Saturday

The latest data indicated on Sunday that the COVID-19 death toll in the United States reached 331,929 people.

The grim milestone coincides with figures from the Census Bureau which found that as of the last week of December, the total population of the US stood at around 330,750,000.

Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease specialist at the Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN January’s projections are ‘nightmarish’. 

As of Saturday evening, more than 1.9 million Americans have been administered a vaccine for COVID-19. 

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a cardiologist at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said he is worried about Americans being hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19.  

The US government said Thursday it will now require all airline passengers arriving from the UK to test negative for COVID-19 starting Monday. The  new mutant strain is spreading in Britain, prompting many countries to shut their borders to travelers from there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement Thursday that all airline passengers arriving from the UK must test negative within 72 hours of departure. 

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said of the rise in cases: ‘This [the case surge] happened devastatingly quickly. Everybody I talked to said this acceleration was beyond any model and any expectation, so then people say ‘What broke down?’ and I’ve got to think it’s partly the strain that was out there.’ 

Crowding at Los Angeles County shopping malls came under scrutiny before the holiday.

Several of them were cited and fined up to $500 for violating COVID-19 measures, which could include not keeping occupancy below 20 per cent capacity and not prohibiting eating and drinking, the Los Angeles Times reported on Saturday.

‘We’re going to take a hard look this weekend at the shopping malls because the pictures we’ve been seeing are … another little mini-disaster,’ county public health director Barbara Ferrer said.

‘The occupancy is supposed to be down to 20 per cent. But when you look around, they look way more crowded than 20 per cent.

‘And that just means a complete breakdown of what we are requiring.’ 

An ambulance crew leaves Kaiser Peminente Hospital emergency room during a surge of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles on Saturday

An ambulance crew leaves Kaiser Peminente Hospital emergency room during a surge of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles on Saturday

An ambulance crew leaves Kaiser Peminente Hospital emergency room during a surge of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles on Saturday

Mercy Air flight paramedic Bob (left) and flight nurse Zach (right) stand next to a patient inside the ED at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California on Tuesday

Mercy Air flight paramedic Bob (left) and flight nurse Zach (right) stand next to a patient inside the ED at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California on Tuesday

Mercy Air flight paramedic Bob (left) and flight nurse Zach (right) stand next to a patient inside the ED at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California on Tuesday

Nurses are seen above working in a makeshift emergency room erected under a tent for coronavirus patients at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center on Wednesday in Cotton, California

Nurses are seen above working in a makeshift emergency room erected under a tent for coronavirus patients at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center on Wednesday in Cotton, California

Nurses are seen above working in a makeshift emergency room erected under a tent for coronavirus patients at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center on Wednesday in Cotton, California

Dr. Mher Onanyan tends to a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles on Tuesday

Dr. Mher Onanyan tends to a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles on Tuesday

Dr. Mher Onanyan tends to a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles on Tuesday

Nurses treat a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles on Tuesday

Nurses treat a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles on Tuesday

Nurses treat a COVID-19 patient in an intensive care unit at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles on Tuesday

Southern California remains at zero percent of its ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed capacity amid the spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Clinicians are seen above caring for a patient in the lobby of Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Wednesday

Southern California remains at zero percent of its ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed capacity amid the spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Clinicians are seen above caring for a patient in the lobby of Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Wednesday

Southern California remains at zero percent of its ICU (Intensive Care Unit) bed capacity amid the spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Clinicians are seen above caring for a patient in the lobby of Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Wednesday

Registered nurse Katelyn Musslewhite cares for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Wednesday

Registered nurse Katelyn Musslewhite cares for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Wednesday

Registered nurse Katelyn Musslewhite cares for a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, California, on Wednesday

Juliet Babayan (right) waves goodbye to her sister Violet Bonyad (seated) and caregivers after bringing a present for Violet and visiting through a window at the Ararat Nursing Facility on Christmas Eve in Mission Hills, California

Juliet Babayan (right) waves goodbye to her sister Violet Bonyad (seated) and caregivers after bringing a present for Violet and visiting through a window at the Ararat Nursing Facility on Christmas Eve in Mission Hills, California

Juliet Babayan (right) waves goodbye to her sister Violet Bonyad (seated) and caregivers after bringing a present for Violet and visiting through a window at the Ararat Nursing Facility on Christmas Eve in Mission Hills, California

Health officials were waiting to see whether people followed their pleas and avoided Christmas and New Year’s festivities that could lead to a new round of infections and threaten to extend stay-at-home orders in several regions of the state.

They repeated warnings before the holiday week that Thanksgiving gatherings where people didn’t wear masks or observe social distancing have resulted in a surge.

Beverly Hills police halted a plan for a secret New Year’s Eve dinner at La Scala after the Italian restaurant circulated invitations to a ‘discreet’ meal that would violate the county’s ban on indoor dining.

In Sonoma County in California’s wine country, a Native American casino announced it was canceling a planned private New Year’s Eve indoor event that could have drawn as many as 4,000 people.

The Graton Resort and Casino is on sovereign native land that isn’t subject to state or county health orders, but it had come under scrutiny for the event.

Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have mounted exponentially in recent weeks and are breaking new records.

Ferrer said on Thursday that ‘a person now dies every 10 minutes in LA County from COVID-19 – and since many of these deaths are preventable, our collective focus should be on doing right to save lives.

‘I hope we can each find the strength and courage to take responsibility for each other’s well-being.’

On Saturday, the state reported more than 30,000 new COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, a 22 per cent decrease from the previous day.

Officials said the change was due to a glitch keeping the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health from reporting its daily cases and deaths.

There were 36 new deaths reported.

The first coronavirus case in California was confirmed on January 25.

It took 292 days to get to 1 million infections on November 11. Just 44 days later, the number topped 2 million.

The crisis is straining the state’s medical system well beyond its normal capacity, prompting hospitals to treat patients in tents, offices and auditoriums. 

As of late Saturday, California reported more than 2.07 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 24,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic

As of late Saturday, California reported more than 2.07 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 24,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic

As of late Saturday, California reported more than 2.07 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 24,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic

California public health officials reported that nearly 380,000 new tests were conducted on Friday. The 14-day average positivity rate stood at 12.1 per cent

California public health officials reported that nearly 380,000 new tests were conducted on Friday. The 14-day average positivity rate stood at 12.1 per cent

California public health officials reported that nearly 380,000 new tests were conducted on Friday. The 14-day average positivity rate stood at 12.1 per cent

Nearly 20,000 Californians were hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of late Saturday. Statewide, there were just under 1,400 ICU beds available

Nearly 20,000 Californians were hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of late Saturday. Statewide, there were just under 1,400 ICU beds available

Nearly 20,000 Californians were hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of late Saturday. Statewide, there were just under 1,400 ICU beds available

California public health officials also reported an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive patients who were admitted to the ICU

California public health officials also reported an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive patients who were admitted to the ICU

California public health officials also reported an increase in the number of COVID-19 positive patients who were admitted to the ICU

The above map shows how Southern California is home to the largest concentration of COVID-19 positive patients currently hospitalized as of Friday

The above map shows how Southern California is home to the largest concentration of COVID-19 positive patients currently hospitalized as of Friday

The above map shows how Southern California is home to the largest concentration of COVID-19 positive patients currently hospitalized as of Friday

The above map shows that 55 of California's 58 counties are experiencing 'widespread' cases of COVID-19

The above map shows that 55 of California's 58 counties are experiencing 'widespread' cases of COVID-19

The above map shows that 55 of California’s 58 counties are experiencing ‘widespread’ cases of COVID-19

As of Saturday, California had record numbers of COVID-19 patients in the hospital and in ICUs, at nearly 19,000 and more than 4,000, respectively.

The figures showed no increase in hospitalizations, and there were a few more ICU beds available, for a total of around 1,390 statewide, according to the California Department of Public Health.

However, ICU capacity varied between the five regions of the state. 

The Northern California region had 34 per cent of ICU capacity while the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions were technically at 0 per cent capacity, meaning that they had no more regular ICU beds available.

Hard-hit hospitals were resorting to surge capacity by putting patients in areas not originally designated for the same level of care, such as post-operative recovery rooms. 

Hospitals have also hired extra staff and canceled elective surgeries – all to boost capacity before the cases contracted over Christmas and New Year’s show up in the next few weeks.

‘Everything is backed up all the way to the street,’ Dr. Oscar Casillas, the medical director of the emergency department at Martin Luther King Jr Community Hospital in South Los Angeles, told The New York Times.

During normal times, the hospital is set up to serve about 30 people at a time, most of them low income Latinos.

Over the last week, however, the hospital has been inundated with more than 100 patients per day.

This has forced hospital staff to utilize all available space, including the lobby and the gift shop, where gurneys holding patients are stashed.

The hospital waiting room is now a special tent that was erected outside to handle the overflow. 

‘Every day is scary,’ Lisa Thompson, an intensive care nurse at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, told the Times.

‘We’re all stressed before we even come to work. Tons and tons of patients. We can’t even keep up with the amount of patients coming into the hospital.’

In a span of 10 months, California has become the viral epicenter of the nation.

‘In the beginning, especially, you saw all these pictures and videos from New York and you think, “Oh my God, it can never get that bad here”,’ said Mendy Hickey, the quality director at St. Mary’s. 

‘And while we have all the supplies we need, it is that bad here and we have no staff to take care of patients.’ 

Link hienalouca.com

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