One in five people tested for COVID-19 in L.A. County are now testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to health officials

By Gabrielle Chung
January 07, 2021 10:40 PM
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Credit: Mark Felix/getty

As Los Angeles County hospitals continue to be overwhelmed due to a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases, officials are now recording one coronavirus-related death every eight minutes of the day.

"A person now dies every 8 minutes from #COVID19 in LA County," Los Angeles County's verified Twitter account posted on Thursday. "Stay home to save lives, always wear a mask when out for essentials and avoid gathering with people you don't live with."

There have been at least 11,545 coronavirus-related deaths in the county since the start of the pandemic, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, with 218 fatalities reported on Thursday alone.

According to the department, one in five people tested for COVID-19 in the county are now testing positive for the novel virus.

"Our hearts go out to the families that are grieving the loss of a loved one to COVID-19," L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a recent statement. "Every day we report a large number of people newly infected with COVID-19, it is like a reset on the clock for when we can get back to our recovery journey."

Ferrer added, "There are just too many people spreading the virus, too many people sick and hospitalized and each person that dies is one too many."

As the number of COVID-19 cases rise, hospitals within the county are having to refuse care to patients — both people with COVID-19 and those with other conditions, such as heart attack or stroke — with a low chance of survival.

"Effective immediately, due to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on EMS and 9-1-1 Receiving Hospitals, adult patients (18 years of age or older) in blunt traumatic and nontraumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) shall not be transported [if] return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) is not achieved in the field," the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Agency said in a memo issued to ambulance workers last week, CNN reported.

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EMS workers are to attempt to revive patients who are not breathing or do not have a pulse, and if they stabilize, workers can take them to the hospital. But if the patient does not regain a pulse or is declared dead, EMS workers should not move them to a hospital, the agency said.

Amid the health crisis, EMS workers have also been advised to limit their use of oxygen for patients due to a shortage in the county.

"Given the acute need to conserve oxygen, effective immediately, EMS should only administer supplemental oxygen to patients with oxygen saturation below 90%," the agency said in a memo on Monday.

In addition to a stay-at-home order, L.A. County residents are now required to quarantine for 10 days after travel to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of Thursday, there have been more than 21,656,600 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and at least 365,024 coronavirus-related deaths, according to a New York Times database.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.