L.A. County coronavirus death toll climbs, includes teen whose death is still under investigation

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LOS ANGELES (KTLA) — Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday reported more losses in the battle against COVID-19, disclosing for the first time since the outbreak began the death of a minor possibly due to the coronavirus.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health only described the minor as a Lancaster resident under 18 years old.

Later in the day, Gov. Gavin Newsom said the patient was a “teenager,” not a child, and called the death a “tragic loss.” The teen did not have pre-existing conditions, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he learned from the county.

“It’s a sober reminder that this can take anyone, somebody without pre-existing conditions, somebody who is not a senior,” Garcetti said at an early evening news conference. “Anybody can die from this disease.”

After the two leaders had held their evening briefings, the county public health department issued a brief statement indicating the minor’s death will require further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality,” the county department said.

Earlier Tuesday, county officials reported three other deaths that have brought the total number of fatal cases in the county to 11.

The city of Long Beach reported one of the four new cases on Monday, identifying the patient as a woman in her 50s with underlying health issues. L.A. County officials on Tuesday said they were still working to confirm information about the two other patients.

The case involving the minor is a “devastating reminder that COVID-19 infects people of all ages,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, in the county’s daily news conference on Tuesday.

“These are difficult numbers to report because behind these numbers are families and friends who are experiencing terrible loss,” Ferrer said.

Over the last 48 hours, L.A. County has confirmed 256 additional coronavirus cases. The total now stands at 662, according to authorities. The county has not confirmed any cases among inmates or the homeless population.

According to the county, about 42% of cases involve people 18 to 40 years old and 39% occur in individuals 41 to 65 years old.

About 1 in 5 people who test positive for the virus are hospitalized, Ferrer said.

“We’ve had only a small number of people on ventilators,” she added.

As of Monday, more than 5,700 people have been tested in L.A. County, with one in 10 diagnosed with COVID-19.

With officials working to obtain more test kits, they expect thousands more will be assessed for the coronavirus by the end of the week.

The county, however, will still need to prioritize, Ferrer said.

County mental health director Dr. Jonathan Sherin also spoke at Tuesday’s news conference, where he acknowledged the mental toll of the outbreak.

Sherin advised those who need assistance to call the county’s help line at 800-854-7771.

Ferrer also reassured anyone experiencing domestic violence during the safer-at-home order that law enforcement is continuing to answer emergency calls. People who want to report such incidents can call the hotline at 800-978-3600 or visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/dvcouncil.

Ferrer urged the public to continue following social distancing guidelines, and for those waiting to be tested to quarantine themselves.

“We will slow down the spread of COVID-19, but it is going to take all of us,” Ferrer said.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that public officials identified the Lancaster teenager’s cause of death as coronavirus. While he did test positive for the virus, officials are still working to determine his cause of death. An incorrect description for the hospitalization rate in this article has also been updated.

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