Los Angeles Covid-19 cases top 1 million as outbreak worsens

A mass-vaccination programme for healthcare workers being conducted at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Jan 15, 2021.
A mass-vaccination programme for healthcare workers being conducted at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Jan 15, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (BLOOMBERG) - The Greater Los Angeles area has surpassed one million confirmed Covid-19 cases, though county scientists estimate actual infections are three times higher.

The milestone means one in 10 people in LA County have tested positive at some point in the outbreak.

The health department reported 14,669 new cases on Saturday (Jan 16), bringing the total to just over one million.

The county also added 253 new deaths, for a total of 13,741.

The new cases are expected to put further strain on a healthcare system already overwhelmed as LA became the nation's epicentre of the latest wave.

Across Southern California and increasingly in other parts of the state, the surge in cases following Thanksgiving and year-end holiday travel has pushed intensive-care unit capacity to zero.

County scientists this week estimated that one in three in Greater LA may have been infected during the course of the pandemic.

Mayor Eric Garcetti put that figure at more than three million people - which would outnumber all but five countries worldwide.

The county also reported its first case of the UK variant - a man who recently spent time in the area before travelling to Oregon, where he's isolating.

Health authorities said it expects the variant to have spread in the community.

"The presence of the UK variant in Los Angeles County is troubling, as our healthcare system is already severely strained," Dr Barbara Ferrer, the county's director of public health, said in a statement.

"Our community is bearing the brunt of the winter surge, experiencing huge numbers of cases, hospitalisations and deaths, five-times what we experienced over the summer."

LA, the biggest US county by population, also has the most number of cases and death toll.

Still, its death rate of 1.4 per cent is the lowest among the five biggest US counties by fatalities.

While LA was among the first US cities to shut down non-essential businesses 10 months ago, and remains in a state-imposed lockdown after running out of intensive-care unit beds, officials have said enforcement remains the biggest challenge in containing the spread.

The outbreak has also taken a toll on its economy.

In the past week, officials transformed Dodger Stadium from the biggest US Covid-19 testing site into a mass vaccination centre to inoculate as many as 12,000 people a day.

Five more large-scale vaccination sites will be opened, including at famed concert venue the Forum, Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park and the Pomona Fairplex, site of the county fair.

The sites will each be able to accommodate about 4,000 people a day.