LOS ANGELES (TBEN) – Workplace COVID-19 outbreaks have increased dramatically in recent weeks in response to increased community transmission, Los Angeles County health officials said Wednesday.
Officials have warned that employers must ensure their workers and clients are protected.
“We have a problem with the transmission of COVID-19 on construction sites across the county,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Wednesday.
“As the percentage of people who are HIV positive for COVID-19 increases, there is simply a much larger pool of infected people walking around, often without symptoms, who are now exposing a growing percentage of people to the virus. “
Ferrer said that within a month, outbreaks at general work sites – including warehouses, manufacturing facilities and logistics companies – went from an average of nine per week to 44 per week.
The outbreaks reflected a continued increase in cases across the county. LA County health officials reported 218 more deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the death toll to 12,955.
Authorities also reported 14,564 new cases, bringing the county’s case count to 958,497.
Ferrer noted that average daily new cases have increased by 1,092% since November, average daily deaths have increased by 1,133% and hospitalizations have increased by 875%.
Officials said hospitalizations appear to be leveling off at just under 8,000 patients per day. As of last week, the county’s patient count was well over 8,000.
“While the numbers have peaked at that number just below 8,000, they have stabilized at a rate that is truly unsustainable,” said Director of Health Services Dr Christina Ghaly. “This high plateau does not leave enough beds open to care for patients without COVID. And that still doesn’t allow us to prepare for an additional attack of patients who could present themselves over the next two weeks in a possible post-vacation flare.
Ghaly said county hospitals have yet to start seeing results from the rallies and virus transmission that likely occurred over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“Even as the slight decline continues, we are far from being in the clear in the LA County hospital system,” she said. “Hospitals cannot maintain the high level of beds occupied by COVID patients.”
Ferrer said the county is also preparing for the likelihood that a new variant of COVID-19 first discovered in the UK will take hold locally.
“According to the latest scientific data available, the British variant doesn’t make people sicker, but it is more transmissible, which means it can be spread more easily,” Ferrer said. “… Current expert projections predict that if left unchecked, this variant could dominate locally by March.”
Ferrer said that because of the variant’s ability to move quickly from person to person, people should continue to take precautions.
“We should be prepared to do more if cases remain high,” she said. “The work ahead requires us to take all necessary measures to reduce transmission.”
(© Copyright 2020 TBEN Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)