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Santa Monica Keeps Shattering Its Weekly Coronavirus Records
By Jorge Casuso
December 21, 2020 -- Santa Monica continued shattering local coronavirus records -- with 316 cases confirmed last week -- as Los Angeles County enters its third week of lockdown.
More than half of the 2,254 coronavirus cases confirmed in Santa Monica since March 16 -- or 1,135 new cases -- have been added over the past six weeks, according to an analysis of County health data.
Four coronavirus-related deaths were reported in Santa Monica last week, bringing the total to 56. Of those, 15 -- or 27 percent -- have been reported over the past six weeks.
Since a regional Stay At Home Order was issued on December 6, COVID-19 cases across LA County have skyrocketed by 176,969 cases.
Virus-related deaths increased by nearly 1,000 -- from 7,936 to 8,931 -- or an average of about 71 per day. The daily average at the beginning of November was 12.
The Stay Home Order prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes non-essential businesses and requires 100 percent masking and physical distancing, health officials said.
Retail stores and shopping centers are limited to 20 percent capacity, while restaurants can only offer take out. Offices and hotels are only open to "critical infrastructure support."
"Without a change in how we celebrate the winter holidays, Los Angeles County will experience a surge on top of a surge on top of a surge," County Health officials warned on Monday.
"Hospitals are already over capacity and the high-quality medical care we are accustomed to in LA County is beginning to be compromised as our frontline healthcare workers are beyond stretched to the limit."
On Sunday, there were 5,709 people with COVID-19 hospitalized, with about 1,200 of those -- 21 percent -- in the ICU, according to County Health officials.
There are approximately 17,000 licensed non-ICU beds and 2,500 licensed ICU beds in the County's 70 designated 9-1-1 receiving hospitals, based on hospitals' daily self-report.
Since November 9, the average daily hospitalizations of patients with the virus increased more than 650 percent, officials said.
Some health-care experts say there isn't evidence yet that the latest lockdown is making an impact on the biggest surge in COVID-19 cases to date.
“We need to start seeing serious dropoffs, by the thousands or tens of thousands, before I’d be able to say, ‘Yes, this worked,’” George Rutherford, the head of infectious disease and global epidemiology at the UC San Francisco, told Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, new vaccines released under President Trump's "Operation Warp Speed" program have been arriving in LA County. Last week, the County received 82,873 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and distributed them to 83 acute care hospitals.
Public Health anticipates receiving 116,600 doses of the Moderna vaccine in this first shipment later this week. It will be used in skilled nursing facilities and given to ETMs and paramedics on the frontlines.
If the vaccines are successful, it could still take months to vaccinate the general population of the County of more than 10 million, healh officials cautioned.
"While we are so encouraged that vaccines have arrived," said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, "it will take many months to immunize the entire population of L.A. County."
Ferrer advised residents to stay home during the holidays and "put on a face covering before you open the door and walk outside."
Wearing a mask, however, can have limited benefits in slowing the spread of the virus and can pose health risks after repeated use, according to recent studies.
The CDC Public Health Guidance for Community-Related Exposure updated December 4 warns that the virus can spread among individuals who come within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more.
"This is irrespective of whether the person with COVID-19 or the contact was wearing a mask," according to the CDC's guidance.
A study published in the "Physics of Fluids" last week found that wearing a used mask could be more dangerous than not wearing a mask at all.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and California Baptist University found that a used three-layer surgical mask is only 25 percent efficient in filtering particles in the air.
A computational face model "showed a mask changes the airflow around the face, so that instead of air entering the mouth and nose through specific paths, air enters the mouth and nose through the entire mask surface but at lower speeds," according to the American Institute of Physics news.
"The lower speed near the face favors the inhalation of aerosols into the nose, so even though masks filter out certain numbers of particles, more particles escaping mask filtration can enter the respiratory tract."
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