Los Angeles County reporting 813 new cases of COVID-19 and 37 additional deaths Saturday, along with an additional 11 cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
The number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals dropped from 508 to 492, according to state figures, which are generally a day ahead of numbers provided by the county. The number of COVID patients in intensive care ticked up from 123 to 125.
Saturday's numbers brought the county's totals to 1,225,256 cases and 23,467 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The new cases of MIS-C brought that total to 169 cases in the county, including one child death. All 169 were hospitalized and 39% of the children were treated in the ICU. Of the children with MIS-C, 26% were under the age of 5 years old, 31% were between 5 and 9, 27% were between 10 and 14 and 16% were between 15 and 20. Latino/Latinx children account for 75% of the reported cases.MIS-C is a serious inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19 that affects children under 21 years old. Symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Parents who believe their child is displaying MIS-C symptoms are urged to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care provider.
"While we are making tremendous progress with the spread of COVID-19 in our county there is also still great sadness as well,'' Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "...April is a critical month in our COVID-19 recovery journey. Over the last few weeks, businesses and public spaces have reopened, and many more people have been out and around others. With increased contact among non-household members, there are many more opportunities for transmission of COVID-19, particularly if public health directives are not followed. As we're seeing in many other states, if we can't find it in us to follow safety precautions, including wearing face coverings and distancing when around others, we jeopardize our ability to move forward on the recovery journey."
Meanwhile, with COVID-19 vaccine eligibility set to expand to everyone aged 16 and over on Thursday, Los Angeles County will see a dip in its supply of doses due to what is expected to be a temporary shortfall in availability of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shots.
But while the decline in the county-controlled supply is concerning -- and poorly timed -- there are still expected to be about a half-million available doses in the county, thanks to other non-county or city providers who receive direct allocations from the state and federal governments.
"Taken together, we estimate that well over 500,000 doses of vaccine will be allocated to vaccination sites across the county next week,'' said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county health department.
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"Now that we have expanded eligibility for vaccinations to all adults 50 and older and will soon be expanding to all adults and adolescents down to age 16 effective April 15, I want to urge all employers to give your employees time to get vaccinated,'' he said. ``We expect a rush for appointments in the coming weeks and employees will need as much flexibility as possible to navigate this process and get their vaccinations as soon as possible."
The county's allocation of vaccine for next week is expected to total 323,470, Simon said. That's a roughly 74,000-dose drop from this week, with the reduction due to a major drop in availability of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. The county received about 97,000 doses of that vaccine this week, but will only receive about 20,000 next week.
Simon said the county's allocations of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will both increase, but not enough to make up for the Johnson & Johnson dropoff. He said he remains confident that the Johnson & Johnson supply will rebound in coming weeks, and overall, the county is on track to get much of the adult population vaccinated by early summer.
"At the pace we're going, we will be able to get where we want to be by late June, as long as people continue to present for a vaccination," Simon said. "... But over a several week period as things open up -- and we've seen this in the past as other groups became newly eligible -- there is that rush over a period of a week or two, and there's just no getting around that.
"So I think we will be urging the public to be patient, but we are confident we will be able to serve everybody's needs over the coming weeks," he said.
Simon also noted that when everyone 16 and up becomes eligible, it creates a further challenge for people who have less access to online appointment sites, as a wider portion of the population with greater computer access crowds them out.
"We are quite concerned with this opening up of eligibility ... that those with less resources, less ability to navigate these online appointment systems or faced with waits on our call line will have more difficulty getting appointments,'' he said. ``And that could have the unfortunate consequence of worsening these disparities. ... And so we are going to be working really, really hard to make sure we work with the community organizations that are serving these communities to make it at little bit easier for them to get appointments."
As of April 4, a total of 4,715,894 doses of vaccine have been administered in the county, including 1,652,149 second doses. Simon noted that number represented an increase of 702,000 over the previous nine days, meaning an average of about 78,000 doses administered daily during that span.