The coronavirus death toll continued to mount in Los Angeles County Tuesday, with 22 more fatalities confirmed, and health officials said an initial look at race data points toward black residents having a slightly higher death rate from the virus than other ethnic groups.
Tuesday’s reported fatalities increased the number of deaths in the county to 169. County health officials also reported 550 new cases, increasing the countywide total to 6,910. That figure includes 72 cases in Pasadena and 230 cases in Long Beach, both of which have their own health departments separate from the county.
Ten homeless people were among the fatalities. On Monday, 12 of the 15 people that died were homeless.
Barbara Ferrer, director of the county Department of Public Health, stressed that the ethnic data on the county’s fatalities is very preliminary, noting that race/ethnicity data was unavailable on 43 percent of the 169 people who have died in the county from the virus.
For the 93 fatalities with available information, 28 percent were Latinx, 27 percent were white, 19 percent were Asian, 17 percent were black and 9 percent were other ethnicities.
“When we look at these numbers by the total population of each group, African-Americans have a slightly higher rate of death than other races and ethnicities, and we will be watching this closely as we gather more information about the remaining 43 percent of people who have passed away,” Ferrer said.
African Americans are more likely to suffer from of heart disease and diabetes making them more at risk to die from the virus.
Ferrer conceded that while testing has been increasing across the county, data indicates that wealthier communities have much better access to the tests.
“People who are living in wealthier communities have had, in fact, better access to testing and have been tested more than people living in communities where income levels are much lower,” Ferrer said. “We will be producing a complete report on what we know about access to lab testing by early next week.”
County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the county is working to expand testing access in all areas, noting that a drive-through facility will open Wednesday at East Los Angeles College.
Pasadena is scheduled to get a drive through site at a later date.
“While not every city will get a drive-through testing site, we’re ensuring that there’s testing capacity in every region of the county,” Solis said. “And I’m also concerned about the reports coming out of other cities that show significant racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and fatalities. We must collect better data to identify and address the disparities in L.A. County.”
Of the 22 new deaths reported in the county, 16 people were over 65 and had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. the remaining six were between 41 and 65, and five of them had existing health problems.
On Monday, Ferrer urged people to avoid leaving home as much as possible, even suggesting residents forgo trips to the grocery store or other shops.
In that same vein, she said Tuesday people should not be planning to attend religious gatherings this week for Passover or Easter.
She said residents should take advantage of whatever method available to maintain contact with friends and relatives, but said anyone suffering from depression or other mental health issues can contact the county’s support hotline at 800-854-7771. She said anyone facing issues of domestic violence during the stay-at-home orders should avail themselves of county shelters and law enforcement. The county has a domestic violence hotline at 800-978-3600, and information on resources is available at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/dvcouncil.