The probability of dying of the coronavirus in a Los Angeles County hospital has doubled to almost 25 percent as the city — now the epicenter of the pandemic — struggles to deal with the public health crisis.
January has been especially deadly for L.A. More than 4,000 of the county’s 14,641 total reported covid-19 deaths have been reported since New Year’s Day 2021.
In New York City, the early epicenter of the covid-19 pandemic, cases and deaths peaked in April, 2020. NYC has reported 551,000 total cases and 26,331 deaths, according to the New York Times.
An analysis released on Jan. 21, 2021 by L.A. county’s Department of Health Services reported that the probability of someone dying of the virus while hospitalized increased from about one in eight in September and October, to roughly one in four since early November, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“Two people are dying of covid-19 every hour in California’s most populous county as hospitals struggle to keep up with the surge of coronavirus patients,” ABC 7 reported.
Average daily deaths from covid-19 in the county have increased a 267 percent since Nov. 9, reaching 44 per day as of the week of Jan. 11, and the death rate is expected to be higher this week, said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
The increased chance of dying is a result of hospitals being overcrowded with the sickest patients being admitted, according to Dr. Roger Lewis, director of covid-19 hospital demand modeling for the L.A. County Department of Health Services.
“During the current surge, while hospitals are critically overcrowded … clinicians are being extremely judicious in their decisions to hospitalize patients,” Lewis said.
The data suggests that only patients who are “quite ill and clearly require acute hospitalization” are being admitted, Lewis said. “And it is likely that a greater fraction of patients are being sent home with instructions to return to the hospital should their illness worsen.”
L.A. Times reporter Soumya Karlamangla tweeted, “COVID patients admitted between Nov. 3 and the present have a 23% chance of dying.” Despite improvements in treatments, these changes suggest a substantial increase in the severity of illness among hospitalized patients, Karlamangla added.
A tweeter responded that the stats make sense. “My concern is whether the same people if admitted earlier would have survived, but due to delay in admission until severity increased are now dying. That would be tragic.”
Recent state data show that 7,073 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized around the U.S. on Jan 20 — a decrease of more than 12 percent from the record high of 8,098 set on Jan. 5. But the number of covid patients who needed intensive care has remained relatively flat over that same period, falling to 1,687 on Jan. 20, down 2.5 percent from the high of 1,731 set Jan. 8.
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Daily deaths rates are still so high in L.A. County that the National Guard has been called in to help overloaded hospital morgues move bodies to the county coroner’s office for storage until funeral homes can catch up.
“Covid-19 continues to take far too many lives — young and old — and so many families and friends are facing difficult times without their loved ones,” Ferrer said.