Los Angeles Covid-19 Update: Workplace Outbreaks Soar Dramatically As Health Officials Warn, “We Have a Problem”

Covid-19 outbreaks in workplaces have risen dramatically in recent weeks in response to increased community transmission, Los Angeles county health officials said today, warning employers must ensure their workers and customers are protected.
"We have a problem with Covid-19 transmission in workplaces across the county," said Health Director Barbara Ferrer. "As the percentage of people who are positive with COVID-19 increases, there is simply a much larger pool of infected people, often without symptoms, who are now a larger and larger percentage of people exposed to the virus."
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She said that in one month, outbreaks in general workplaces - including warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and logistics companies - had increased from an average of nine per week to 44 per week. Schools and day-care centers also tripled the outbreaks. Ferrer noted that most of them were "small and well-closed" but "dozens of staff and a small number of students".
Such outbreaks reflected a sustained surge in cases across the county. Health officials reported an additional 218 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the nationwide death toll from the virus to 12,955. They also announced 14,564 new cases, bringing the cumulative numbers since the pandemic started to 958,497.
Ferrer found that the average daily new cases increased 1,092% since November, the average daily death increased 1,133% and hospital admissions increased 875%.
She said the county is also preparing for the likelihood of a new variant of Covid-19, first discovered in the UK - B.1.1.7 - making its way on site.
"According to the latest available science, the British variant does not make people sick, but it is more transmissible which means it can spread more easily," Ferrer said. "Current forecasts by the experts predict that this variant, if not activated, could dominate locally until March."
When asked if he was concerned about B.1.1.7, California Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly: “Absolutely, we were concerned about it. I think we have 38 confirmed cases ... when it starts we will see an even bigger broadcast than we are now. I think that the transfer rates will be much more difficult to contain when we see more of this B.1.1.7 variant. "
With the variant's ability to move from person to person quickly, Ferrer said people must continue to take all necessary precautions without excluding the need for stricter regulations to control the spread.
Ferrer and the director of health services, Dr. Christina Ghaly, noted again that hospital admissions seem to be decreasing for an average of just under 8,000 patients per day. State figures on Wednesday showed 7,906 people in hospital with Covid-19, 1,699 of them in intensive care.
The record number of pandemic-related patients in the county was well over 8,000 last week.
"While the numbers have plateaued at that number of just under 8,000, they have reached a rate that is really unsustainable," said Ghaly of L.A.
“This high plateau does not leave enough open beds to care for patients without Covid. And it still doesn't allow us to be prepared for an additional onslaught of patients that could present itself in a potential post-vacation surge over the next several weeks. "
Ghaly said L.A. hospitals have not yet begun seeing the results of gatherings and virus transmissions that likely occurred over the Christmas and New Year holidays.
"Even if the slight decline continues, we're nowhere near clear in the L.A. County's hospital system," she said. "Hospitals cannot maintain the high level of beds occupied by COVID patients."
She added, “In order for health care providers to experience significant relief, hospital stays must decrease rapidly and significantly for a period of one to two months. Please do not let this current number of daily hospital stays make you feel normal just because it is on a plateau. "
"We should be ready to do more if the cases stay high," she said. "The work ahead requires that we take all necessary measures to reduce carry-over."
The City News Service contributed to this report.
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