LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County is facing its most harrowing coronavirus numbers ever as the pandemic continues its record-shattering rampage through California and officials weigh further restrictions on activities and social gatherings.
Daily infections in the county have quadrupled and daily deaths have tripled in a matter of weeks, a rate of growth that's led to "the most alarming metrics we've ever seen," according to Barbara Ferrer, the county's director of public health.
"The risk at this point is that overwhelming the health care system is now a very real possibility," she told the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
In the past seven weeks, the county's number of new daily coronavirus cases, averaged over a seven-day period, has swelled from fewer than 1,000 to more than 4,000, a Los Angeles Times analysis has found.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have more than doubled in just three weeks, from about 800 on Halloween to 1,700 on Monday. The average number of daily deaths has also tripled to an average of 29 over the seven-day period that ended Tuesday.
The rate at which coronavirus tests are coming back positive in L.A. County is now 6.6%, nearly double what it was in late October and triple the rate in San Francisco.
"These very large increases in cases and hospitalizations will, without a doubt, lead to increased numbers of people dying," Ferrer said.
Already, about 7,500 county residents have died from COVID-19, more than double the flu-related death toll from the last cold-and-flu season.
Hospitalizations are expected to continue soaring in the coming weeks as new infections are diagnosed.
State health officials have estimated that roughly 12% of those who've tested positive have ended up being hospitalized two to three weeks later, so a sustained and significant surge could stretch hospitals to their limits.