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Santa Monica Sees Drop in Coronavirus Cases as County Deploys 'Contact Tracers'

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By Jorge Casuso

June 16, 2020 -- Confirmed coronavirus cases in Santa Monica dropped to 30 new cases last week as more than 1,500 Los Angeles County "tracers" were deployed to contact those who have tested positive.

The drop comes after the weekly total spiked to a record 52 the previous week following a record low eight cases, according to data provided by the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

Health officials reported the deaths of two residents last week, bringing the total number of those who have died with the virus to 22.

As of Sunday, Santa Monica had a total of 336 confirmed cases, with another 261 cases reported at local nursing homes, after 24 new cases were reported last week.

Thirty-two deaths have been reported at local nursing homes, with two deaths confirmed last week. Three nursing homes accounted for 70 percent of the cases and all but one of the deaths.

As of 8 p.m. Sunday, there were 73,791 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 2,926 deaths, health officials reported. Of those who died, 93 percent had underlying health conditions.

More than 1,500 "contact tracers" have been deplyed by the Department for its COVID-19 response, health officials said.

The tracers contact those who have tested positive for COVID-19 "to provide information about how to protect themselves and others, to find out where they may have been, and who they were in close contact with while infectious."

"This involves identifying and interviewing every person who has been in close contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 in order to quarantine those exposed (contacts) and monitor them for signs and symptoms of the disease," officials said.

The contact tracing -- which is confidential -- "is a containment strategy that has been used by public health departments for decades to slow the spread of infectious diseases and manage outbreaks."

Health officials acknowledge it is impossible to trace positive cases among the hundreds of thousands of protesters who attended massive rallies in LA County over the past two weeks with no social distancing.

Instead, they are asking protestors to self-quarantine for 14 days immediately following a potential exposure and to get tested for the coronavirus.

"Nobody knows that you were there, nobody has your name, we can’t call you,” County Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said last Monday.

"Every single social interaction that happens outside your household comes with risk to both the people who interact,” Ferrer said.

Testing capacity continues to increase in LA County, with results available for more than 825,000 individuals, health officials said. Of those tested, 8 percent were positive.

As of Sunday, 1,285 people were hospitalized, officials said. Of those, 31 percent were in the ICU and 24 percent were on ventilators.

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