LOS ANGELES, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- An average of nine to 10 people in Los Angeles County, the most populous county in the United States, currently test positive for COVID-19 every minute, local health officials said Monday.
The county's Department of Public Health reported 13,661 new COVID-19 infections and 73 more deaths in a daily release, pushing its cumulative cases up to 733,325 with 9,555 related deaths, while officials estimated there were delayed reportings of 432 additional deaths due to outages and the holiday weekend.
Los Angeles County has been recording its caseload of over 13,000 a day, with some days over 15,000, while it just saw an average of about 1,200 cases some days before the current surge which began 58 days ago, said the department.
There are 6,914 COVID-19 patients currently hospitalized in the county, 20 percent of whom are in intensive care.
Since Nov. 9, average daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients have increased by more than 670 percent, and the average daily deaths have increased 600 percent, from 12 a day in early-November to 84 a day in mid-December, according to the department.
Officials have urged people who traveled outside of the county to quarantine for 10 days upon return.
The department said that a total of 66,628 frontline healthcare workers at acute care hospitals across the county have received their first doses as of last Saturday, adding that county, city, and curative teams are working together to accelerate vaccinations at skilled nursing facilities over the next two weeks. Vaccinations at other long-term care facilities will happen through the federal pharmacy partnership with Walgreens and CVS and are likely to begin in early January.
"Let's give our hospitals a fighting chance to handle the flood of COVID-19 patients who are arriving every day. We thank everyone who has and continues to do the right thing to help slow this surge," Barbara Ferrer, the public health director in Los Angeles County, said in the daily release.
"Reducing the number of new cases is the only way to stop this surge. The urgency to take every preventative measure possible is upon us, otherwise the coronavirus transmission trajectory we see here continues, with its devastating impact on hospitals and people," she added.
A regional stay-at-home order for Southern California, which was due to expire on Monday, will likely be extended due to the worsening pandemic.
The remaining ICU capacity in Southern California region is still zero as of Monday. The stay-at-home order will be in place for at least three weeks, and regions will be eligible to exit from the order on Dec. 28 if ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to 15 percent, according to the state government.
The new stay-at-home order took effect on Dec. 6 in Southern California after the region's ICU capacity dropped below 15 percent.