LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County reported 12,731 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 additional deaths Sunday, as the number of county residents hospitalized with the coronavirus surpassed 4,000 for the first time.
The new numbers bring the county's totals to 525,486 cases and 8,298 fatalities since the pandemic began.
The number of hospitalizations rose to 4,009, an increase from 3,850 on Saturday, and 21% were in intensive care units.
"Our daily case numbers are unlike any we have ever seen in our county and reflect extraordinarily high rates of community transmission; activities we were able to do just a few weeks back, now present far too much risk for virus transmission," the Los Angeles County Health Department said Saturday.
Last week was record-shattering by all key public health indicators. A month ago, the five-day average of cases was 2,134: On Saturday it was 10,034 -- an increase of 370%. The five-day average of deaths one month ago, was 12: It was 62 as of Saturday. During that same span of time, hospitalizations increased by more than 300%.
"We're in uncharted territory at this point," county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "We're seeing daily numbers of cases and hospitalizations that we've not experienced and frankly did not anticipate. Our intensive care unit capacity continues to drop. We're on a very dangerous track to seeing unprecedented and catastrophic suffering and death here in L.A. County if we can't stop the surge. And in order to stop this very dangerous surge, today I'm making a request to everyone in L.A. County to stay home as much as possible."
Ferrer said if current trends continue, the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized and in intensive care will double in two weeks.
Ferrer said cases were already trending upward in the county prior to Thanksgiving, prompting the county to cut off outdoor dining at restaurants, but the current dramatic surge in cases is directly attributable to gatherings and travel that occurred over the holiday in spite of public health warnings, creating a surge on top of a surge.
And if another surge from Christmas compounds matters, the situation at hospitals "could become catastrophic," she said.
Dwindling ICU capacity prompted the state to impose a regional stay at home order for the 11-county Southern California region last week. The order was triggered when overall ICU capacity dropped below 15%. As of Saturday, the state's estimated ICU capacity for the region -- adjusted based on the percentage of current COVID versus non-COVID ICU patients -- dropped to 5.3%
The state's regional stay-at-home order -- which covers Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties -- bars gatherings of people from different households.
Under the order, the following businesses/recreational facilities were forced to close:
-- indoor recreational facilities;
-- hair salons and barbershops;
-- personal care services;
-- museums, zoos, and aquariums;
-- movie theaters;
-- bars, breweries and distilleries;
-- family entertainment centers;
-- cardrooms and satellite wagering;
-- limited services;
-- live audience sports; and
-- amusement parks.
Schools with waivers can remain open, along with "critical infrastructure" and retail stores, which will be limited to 20% of capacity. Restaurants are restricted to takeout and delivery service only. Hotels are allowed to open "for critical infrastructure support only," while churches would be restricted to outdoor only services. Entertainment production -- including professional sports -- would be allowed to continue without live audiences.
The order will remain in effect until at least Dec. 28.
Officials are hoping for relief from the arrival of the first coronavirus vaccine, which began shipping out from a Michigan facility on Sunday. Los Angeles County expects to receive nearly 83,000 doses of the vaccine this week, with the initial doses distributed to 83 acute-care hospitals for administration to critical frontline workers.
"Los Angeles County is working with a variety of partners around the county in storing and housing the vaccine," the county's health department said Sunday. "In the interest of the safety of the workers at these sites, Los Angeles County is not releasing details about these locations."
UCLA Health officials said they expected to get the vaccines Monday or Tuesday, with shots administered on Wednesday.