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Coronavirus

LA’s Covid-19 deaths soar as USNS Mercy arrives

Statewide eviction moratorium in force

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Gavin Newsom welcome United States Naval Medical Ship Mercy from San Diego, now LA’s largest hospital. (Photo by Los Angeles Blade)

California Governor Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other officials welcomed the arrival of the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USNS Mercy to the Port of Los Angeles Friday morning. The ship was ordered to provide relief assistance by President Donald Trump to assist in the ongoing efforts to provide additional resources as California’s healthcare workers battle the COVID-19 pandemic providing an additional 1,000 beds and critical medical infrastructure in Southern California.

Arrival of the ship comes as the mortality rate rose again in Los Angeles County. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Los Angeles Blade Friday afternoon that the DPH had recorded five confirmed new deaths and 257 new cases of COVID-19.

There have been 678 confirmed cases over the past 48 hours according to the spokesperson. With those new cases, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) has now seen 1,465 cases across the County to include Pasadena and Long Beach. There are now 26 confirmed deaths although the death of a 17-year-old male Antelope Valley resident earlier in the week is still under investigation by the CDC at the request of LACDPH officials. Asked about the number of cases currently in hospital, the response was that as of Friday morning 317 residents had been hospitalized.

Speaking to reporters in a pier-side press briefing next to the ship, Newson and Garcetti flanked by U.S. Navy Expeditionary Strike Group 3 Commander, Rear Admiral John Gumbleton, praised the ongoing federal efforts and then answered questions updating the response from the state and the city governments to the outbreak.

Noting that the latest numbers reflected a nearly 50% increase, the Governor pointed out that over the next six-day period California would be at the same place that New York City is currently. Newsom then again stressed the importance of Californians observing the Safer At Home order while noting that there were instances of behavior still occurring that required elected officials to close further recreational facilities, parks, and beaches across the state.

Garcetti noted that earlier, Los Angeles County authorities had closed all of the county’s beaches, and hiking trails. The Mayor told reporters that he had ordered the two city-owned beaches, Venice and Cabrillo, also closed.

“The crowds we saw at our beaches last weekend were unacceptable,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a press statement. “In order to save lives, beaches in LA County will be temporarily closed. I understand that this is a huge sacrifice for everyone who enjoys going to our beaches. But we cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus. This closure is temporary and we can always reopen these beaches when it is safe to do so.”

“The new Health Officer Order is in line with our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County It is crucial that we limit access to non-essential places where crowds have been gathering,” Dr. Ferrer wrote in a separate statement released Friday by LACDPH. “Please practice social distancing when you do go outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. That means staying at least 6 feet away from other people.”

Newsom also noted that while eighty-eight thousand COVID-19 tests had been administered to date, the problem was that there are tens of thousands of tests that have not yet been processed.

Mayor Garcetti also noted that over two thousand retired, or out of work healthcare professionals including nurses and doctors had volunteered to get back to work in LA County to assist in the efforts combating the rising numbers of people affected by the viral outbreak.

Prior to the press briefing, Newsom issued an executive order banning the enforcement of eviction orders for renters affected by COVID-19 through May 31, 2020.

“The order prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent and prohibits enforcement of evictions by law enforcement or courts. It also requires tenants to declare in writing, no more than seven days after the rent comes due, that the tenant cannot pay all or part of their rent due to COVID-19, the Governor’s office wrote in a press release.

“The tenant would be required to retain documentation but not required to submit it to the landlord in advance. And the tenant would remain obligated to repay full rent in a timely manner and could still face eviction after the enforcement moratorium is lifted. The order takes effect immediately, and provides immediate relief to tenants for whom rent is due on April 1st.”

Newsom had issued a previous executive order which authorized local governments to halt evictions for renters impacted by the pandemic.

On Thursday Newsom had hosted a video conference call with physician-scientists from across the state’s network of medical centers & medical schools to discuss COVID-19 clinical trials and therapies that could help the world chart a path toward defeating the virus.

One participant who asked to not be identified told the Los Angeles Blade Friday, “There’s as much as ten times as many cases of coronavirus infection- than being reported. I think that the death count is very likely much higher because the criteria for testing are so strict. So we don’t really know the actual infection rate or mortality rate is currently.”

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L.A. County on track to bring back mandatory indoor masking

If LA county stays in CDC designated High Community Level for 2 consecutive weeks officials would implement a universal indoor masking

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicated that if the upward trend in coronavirus numbers continues, due to the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants coupled with increased community spread, officials may order a return to indoor masks.

On Friday, Public Health said that while the county currently remains at the CDC designated COVID-19 Medium Community Level. There are increasing concerns about the impact of new Omicron sub-variants on transmission and hospitalizations that could result in the County moving into the High Community Level designation sometime later this summer.

Barbara Ferrer, Director of LA County Public Health expressed concern and cautioned Angelenos as the region prepares for the July 4th holiday weekend.

“Since July 4 is right around the corner and many of us are looking forward to celebrating Independence Day with family and friends, it is important to remember that many of our loved ones may be older adults, or have serious underlying health conditions, or not yet been vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said.

“Given the rising number of COVID cases and hospitalizations, and the increased circulation of the more infectious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, it is extra important to take steps that reduce the risk of transmission especially over the long holiday weekend; this helps us protect ourselves, our families, and our community,” She continued adding, “With a little planning, you can have a great time celebrating while keeping each other safe. Please be sure to remind friends and family to stay home and skip the celebration if they feel sick or have tested positive.  It is also a great idea for everyone to test themselves before getting together, ideally on the day of the gathering. It is always best to celebrate outdoors, and if people come indoors for part of the gathering, wearing a mask is advisable, particularly if there are individuals at high risk of severe illness should they become infected.”

LA County Public Health pointed out in a statement that six of the seven Early Alert metrics Public Health are tracking continue to convey cause for Medium or High Concern. Moreover, in the past week, four Early Alert Signals moved upward in the level of concern: The case rate in the lowest income areas and the number of new outbreaks at Skilled Nursing Facilities per week, both moved up to High Concern.

The number of new outbreaks in settings for People Experiencing Homelessness is now at Medium Concern. And the number of worksite clusters increased, moving from Medium to High Concern for the first time since Public Health started tracking this metric in early March.

There was also an uptick in the percentage of Emergency Department Visits. The only measure indicating Low Concern is the number of sewer systems with a two-fold increase in viral load.

The first of two hospital metrics in the CDC Community Levels Framework is the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000, which rose this past week to 8.1 admissions per 100,000 people. This is a 56% increase compared to one month ago. The second hospital metric, the seven-day average for the proportion of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, also increased this past week to 4.2%.

If the county moves into the CDC designated High Community Level and remains there for two consecutive weeks, the county would implement a universal indoor masking requirement for everyone age 2 and older in LA County as a safety measure aligned with the CDC framework. The safety measure would remain in effect until the county returned to the CDC Medium Community Level designation, or lower, for two consecutive weeks. 

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CDC: 85% of gay & lesbian adults in U.S. are vaccinated against COVID

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBTQ persons limited because of the lack of routine SOGI data collection at the national & state levels

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Photo Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/GSA

ATLANTA – A new study report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), found that found 85.4% of gay and lesbian Americans above age 18 had received at least one vaccine dose as of October 2021.

The study, conducted from August 29 until October 30, 2021, also found that by comparison, only 76.3% of heterosexuals reported receiving at least an initial dose by the same date.

The report noted that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations have higher prevalence of health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness compared with non-LGBT populations.

The potential for low vaccine confidence and coverage among LGBT populations is of concern because these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services

Data on COVID-19 vaccination among LGBT persons are limited, in part because of the lack of routine data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity at the national and state levels.

In March of 2021, the Blade reported the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed deep-seated inequities in health care for communities of color and amplifies social and economic factors that have contributed to those communities being hit hardest, and Mega-vaccination centers set up by California health officials and the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been addressing and tracking the issue- the LGBTQ communities are still not being tracked.

This lack of data collection has frustrated and angered California State Senator Scott Wiener who authored a bill last year that passed through the legislature and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom last Fall that mandates gathering sexual orientation and gender identity data related to the COVID testing in California.

“We’re one year into the pandemic, and LGBTQ people continue to be erased in our public health response to COVID-19 — similar to our invisibility throughout history. No government is successfully tracking COVID-19 cases in the LGBTQ community, despite a law I wrote mandating that California do so,” Weiner told the Blade. “And, we now know that LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19. We’ve also just learned that vaccination demographic data doesn’t include LGBTQ data. It simply shocking that in 2021, progressive health agencies continue to forget about our community,” he added.

The CDC also noted that gay and lesbian adults were more likely to be concerned about COVID-19 and to believe in the safety and efficacy of vaccines.

“We know that the prevalence of certain health conditions associated with severe COVID-19 illness, such as cancer, smoking, and obesity, are higher in LGBT populations, and access to health care continues to be an issue for some people in the LGBT community,” Dr. A.D. McNaghten, a member of the CDC’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and corresponding author of the study, told ABC News. “We wanted to see if vaccination coverage among LGBT persons was the same as non-LGBT persons.”

The CDC data recorded that bisexual and transgender adults had similar vaccination rates to heterosexual adults with 72.6% of bisexual adults fully vaccinated by the end of October, as were 71.4% of transgender adults. The numbers however for Black and Hispanic lesbian women had lower rates of vaccination at 57.9% and 72.6%, respectively, compared to Black and Hispanic heterosexual women at 75.6% and 80.5%, respectively.

Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%).

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White House orders distribution of 400 million free N95 masks

Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator; “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks”

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President Joe Biden (Blade file photo/screenshot)

WASHINGTON – As the latest surge of the highly contagious and easily transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to cause a rise in hospitalizations, especially among unvaccinated adults and children, the White House announced Wednesday it is making 400 million N95 masks available for free at thousands of locations across the nation.

The plan an admkistartion official said, is to start shipping the nonsurgical masks to pharmacies and community health centers to distribute this week, which will come from the Strategic National Stockpile.

In an interview with NBC News, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the administration’s Covid testing coordinator, said, “We know that these masks provide better protection than cloth masks.”

The N95 masks will be made available to everybody, and recipients will not be prioritized based on vulnerability to Covid, income or other criteria. Inglesby said the administration was “confident that people who want to access them will be able to access them,” but it was not immediately clear how many masks a person could receive at one time.

On January 13, President Joe Biden had announced a plan to have the government distribute 1 billion rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests free to Americans, along with the N95 masks, as the administration works to fight the spiraling upward spike in coronavirus cases.

The White House website to order free at-home Covid tests went live Tuesday. The website says: “Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”

A White House official said Wednesday that the distribution of 400 million masks would be the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history.

Inglesby told NBC News that the administration was “absolutely preparing for the possibility of additional variants in the future” and that people could expect the government to make N95 masks “more and more available.”

Biden announces free masks, tests to fight omicron:

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