LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County has now passed the mark of 10,000 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, health officials said Wednesday.
The rate of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths appears to be continuing to increase amid the current COVID-19 surge - and may get even worse in January, according to public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
"We all need to be prepared for another surge that will start with even higher case numbers in January," Ferrer said.
The county is now averaging about 150 deaths per day from COVID-19 - nearly equal to the amount from all other causes combined, which is 170 per day, Ferrer said.
On Wednesday, the county reported 274 additional deaths, a figure that would be a new daily record but it includes a backlog of cases that weren't reported because of a technology outage.
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The new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 that was first detected in the United Kingdom has been confirmed in San Diego County, in a 30-year-old man with no recent travel history.
In Los Angeles County, Ferrer says public labs have not yet detected the variant, but they only tested a small sample size and she said it may likely already be present in the county.
The county is now averaging more than 13,000 new cases every day, a number that is roughly 10 times the level reported before the surge that began in November.
The latest numbers were released as officials once again warned the public not to celebrate New Year's Eve by gathering with others.
"Please don't ring in the new year from a hospital bed hooked up to a ventilator," said Hilda Solis, chair of the county Board of Supervisors.
And Ferrer added that those who travel out of town for the holidays are required to self-quarantine at home for 10 days after they return, maintaining no contact with anyone from outside their own household.
In response to help stop the spread of COVID-19, city officials announced the Santa Monica Pier will be closed over the weekend and will not reopen until 6 a.m. on Jan 4.
There are 7,415 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19, a figure that continues to grow and put an increasing strain on hospitals even as available ICU capacity is listed at 0%. About 20% of those hospitalized are in the ICU and 18% are on ventilators.
"Our medical examiner is taking overflows of bodies from hospitals that don't have room to store them," Solis said.
Even with the increasingly-dire news, there have been some positive developments.
More than 78,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to health-care workers at acute care hospitals, in addition to doses given to EMTs and paramedics, and residents of skilled nursing facilities.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city is working with one of its testing contractors to establish vaccination sites next to existing testing sites.
The three vaccination sites that are open now are not for the general public yet, but have already given out about 300 doses to front-line health-care workers. A fourth site will open in January. He also said the testing site at Dodger Stadium will close Saturday and be restructured to try to reduce traffic in the community.
Garcetti described Los Angeles as the nation's "ground zero" for the coronavirus crisis.
"If it sounds like we're moving quickly it's because we are," Garcetti said. "We cannot move quickly enough when it comes to COVID."
"There's simply no time to spare with this virus raging in our city - and with Los Angeles being in many ways ground zero in the nation right now for COVID-19 propagation."