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LA County Marks Anniversary Of 1st COVID Death, Prepares To Expand Vaccine Eligibility

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Wednesday reported 1,514 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 119 new deaths, bringing countywide totals to 1,206,713 cases and 22,213 deaths.

People receive their Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a public housing project pop-up site targeting vulnerable communities in Los Angeles, California on March 10, 2021. - The event was hosted by the MLK Community Healthcare and the Boys & Girls Clubs. Coronavirus cases across Los Angeles County are dropping as vaccination rates increase, with seniors 65 and older, healthcare workers, food and agriculture workers, workers in education, childcare and emergency services now eligible to receive the vaccine. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Health officials reported that the seven-day average number of cases by episode date had decreased to less than 700 per day as of March 2, and that today's numbers included "a few hundred" backlogged cases.

Of the new deaths reported, 44 people were over the age of 80, 33 people were between the ages of 65 and 79, 30 people were between the ages of 50 and 64, six people were between the ages of 30 and 49 and one person died who was between the age of 18 and 29. Long Beach reported five deaths.

"Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first death from COVID-19 here in L.A. County," Dr. Barbara Ferrer, county public health director, said. "Tragically, one year later, over 22,000 people, including grandparents, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and co-workers, have passed away from this terrible virus here in L.A. County, leaving a huge void behind."

To date, Public Health has confirmed 262 cases of a COVID-19 variant first detected here in California, 47 cases of a variant first detected in the U.K, nine cases of a variant first detected in New York and one case of the variant first detected in Brazil. There have been no known cases of the variant first detected in South Africa.

Public Health also said it was working with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors on reopening plans with the county now meeting the thresholds to qualify for the state's less restrictive red tier.

"As we plan for additional re-openings, we know that if there is more transmission of the COVID-19, there is more risk of variants dominating and more risk of suffering," Ferrer said. "That is why it is so important for all of us to continue to do everything we can to reduce transmission, including masking and maintaining physical distance whenever we are outside of our homes and around others."

According to Public Health, the county must have qualifying metrics for one more week to be eligible on March 17 for additional reopening, though that could happen sooner if it is able to finish administering 2 million vaccine doses.

"Given all the efforts this week to make sure people in the hard-hit communities have better access to vaccines, it may only be a couple of days until the 2 million threshold is reached," Public Health said in a statement.

The news came as custodians and janitors, public transit workers and airport ground crew workers became eligible to get vaccinated, along with social workers who handle cases of violence, abuse or neglect and foster parents providing emergency housing for young people.

Starting March 15, vaccine eligibility will expand to people ages 16 through 64 who have underlying health conditions or disabilities that put them at the highest risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19 including cancer, with a current weakened immune system; chronic kidney disease, stage 4 or above; chronic pulmonary disease, oxygen dependent; Down syndrome; solid organ transplant, leading to a weakened immune system; pregnancy; sickle cell disease; heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies (but not hypertension); severe obesity with a BMI of more than 40 and Type 2 diabetes with A1c level greater than 7.5%.

Those with disabilities that makes serious illness from COVID-19 likely, makes treatment for COVID-19 particularly challenging or if a positive diagnosis would limit the person's ability to receive vital care will also become eligible March 15.

The county also said that it was prioritizing groups hardest hit by the pandemic — including Black and Latinx — by having sites in neighborhoods most impacted by the virus, collaborating with faith- and community-based partners to help make appointments and creating ways to solve transportation and registration barriers.

Health officials also reported that the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized continued to decline with 1,079 hospitalized Wednesday, 30% of whom were being treated in intensive care units.

Testing results are available for more than 5,915,000 individuals with 19% of people testing positive. Today's daily test positivity rate is 2.3%.

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