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L.A. County Health: SGV is Under-Tested, New “Close Contact” Guidelines from CDC and New High in Deaths

A screen capture of the Facebook Live online streaming of the L.A. County daily press briefing, on April 1, 2020. Director of LACDPH Barbara Ferrer gives the status update.


Alhambra , CA

Wednesday was the second straight day of double-digit deaths and the highest daily case numbers, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Department Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged an equity issue in testing, citing three areas – South L.A., outer Lancaster and the San Gabriel Valley.

During the daily press briefings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the county also addressed a few Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and definitions, the death of the first health care worker in L.A. County, institutional cases, and a L.A. County Board of Supervisors motion to let restaurants sell unprepared foods.

The Los Angeles Times asked Ferrer if the county was collecting data or demographics like race or income on those who have been tested for COVID-19, citing local leaders’ concerns that lower-income areas are underserved.

Data like race and ethnicity aren’t often available from lab reports, Ferrer said, but when they do investigations of cases, they collect some information from the patients that are confirmed as positive. Lab reports that are negative are hardest from which to collect demographic data.

“Our hope is that we’re paying attention to some of the areas that, where in fact we know there has been less testing, San Gabriel Valley, for example […] where it definitely looks like based on the data we have that there are less people that are being tested,” Ferrer answered.

Ferrer noted that part of the issue is that the county has to work with health care providers “so that they understand their obligation to do clinical assessments of folks and recommend for people to be tested,” but the other issue is readily accessible locations for specimen collection to be sent to a lab.

As of right now, there are no drive-up testing sites proposed as possible locations in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley. The closest two locations under consideration are at the Pasadena Rose Bowl and the Pomona Fairplex.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have updated their definition of “close contact,” according to the LACDPH. They also expect new recommendation for homemade masks by the end of the week.

With more research and scientific testing comes knowledge, and the county has to be ready to pivot, Ferrer said Tuesday and Wednesday. There is increasing factual evidence that some people can be infectious before they develop symptoms – or infectious and have no symptoms at all.

The CDC defines a “close contact” as a household member, caretaker, intimate partner, coworker or others who have come within six feet of you for more than 10 minutes.

The new guideline is that you must notify anyone you saw for 48 hours prior to becoming symptomatic, who then qualifies as a close contact, that they must begin their mandatory 14-day quarantine.

For example, if you were to show symptoms on Wednesday, you must contact everyone who fits your “close contact” list, including Monday and Tuesday.

The county’s Health Order to isolate and contact others for quarantine still applies to anyone who is confirmed positive, has been told by a health care provider that they are likely positive or has the symptoms of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Ferrer stressed that the most important use for N95 respirator and surgical masks is for health care professionals.

“If our health care workers do not have their personal protection equipment, it is impossible for them to do their jobs, and that means it’s impossible for the rest of us to get the kind of health care we’re going to need if we should become ill with any disease,” she stated.

N95 respirators are in short supply and the county is asking that residents protect the supply for health care workers.

There may be a benefit for the general public to use homemade masks like scarves, bandanas or masks of fabric – they are good for preventing droplets from escaping your mouth and infecting others, Ferrer said.

Ferrer added that a mask is not a shield, and it doesn’t replace social distancing or hand washing – “it’s just another tool that we can add to our list of tools that are available to again, prevent us infecting others, and help others from infecting us.”

To date, there are 3,518 total confirmed cases including Long Beach and Pasadena, and 65 deaths. In the last 24 hours there have been 513 cases and 11 deaths. Of the total cases, 20% are in the intensive care unit, including four people under the age of 35.

The county is investigating 43 institutional settings – congregate living like nursing homes, jails or shelters – that have one or more positive cases, totaling 207 confirmed between the residents and staff. None of the congregate living facilities that have been named are in the San Gabriel Valley.

The death of L.A. County’s first health care worker was reported on Monday. The person was over the age of 60, and Ferrer said this person “gave everything” while working against COVID-19.

Prefacing the status report on case numbers and deaths in the county on Tuesday and Wednesday, Ferrer said that though the county is reporting with statistics, “these aren’t just numbers, these are real people,” and she is still trying to respect their privacy in offering limited details.

Here are some of the case numbers presented by the L.A. County Health Department press release:

  • Pasadena: 33
  • Alhambra: 13
  • Boyle Heights: 15
  • El Monte: 6
  • El Sereno: 4
  • Unincorporated East L.A.: 16
  • Highland Park: 9
  • Lincoln Heights: 5
  • Montebello:  7
  • Monterey Park: 9
  • Rosemead: 3
  • San Gabriel: 6
  • South Pasadena: 7
  • Temple City: 1
  • Numbers are suppressed in communities with less than 25,000 residents, but with 1-4 confirmed cases:
    • San Marino

County restaurants have had to adapt to new restrictions, and the SGV is no different.

Supervisor Janice Hahn read an urgency motion to develop and issue guidelines for restaurants that allow them to become “pop-up markets” during the Safer at Home Health Officer Order. This would allow for the selling of their food items unprepared, such as uncooked meat, whole produce or eggs, as part of their delivery, curbside pick-up or take-out options.

The motion was passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, coughing and shortness of breath. Call a doctor if you’re experiencing these.

Emergency warning signs are difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to wake, and bluish lips or face. If you or someone you know has these, seek medical attention immediately.

Do not call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room for COVID-19 testing unless you are seriously ill.

The “Safer at Home” order may not be true for some homes experiencing domestic violence. Resources are available and emergency protective orders are still being enforced. Call 800-978-3000 or go to their page.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health page.

L.A. County residents can call 2-1-1 for referrals to resources or help.

Meal assistance for the elderly: Workforce Development, Aging and Community Services page or call 800-510-2020.


For all of the reporting from the Alhambra Source, go to our Stay Healthy page.

Jon Thurber contributed to the reporting of this story.

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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