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Angeles Coronavirus

The coronavirus may have reached Los Angeles by Christmas – Los Angeles Times

Was the novel coronavirus on the loose in Los Angeles way back in December, before the World Health Organization was even aware of an unusual cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China?

A new analysis of medical records from UCLA hospitals and clinics suggests the answer might be yes.

Researchers from UCLA and their colleagues at the University of Washington documented an unmistakable uptick in patients seeking treatment for coughs. The increase began the week of Dec. 22, 2019, and persisted through the end of February.

Some of those patients were treated in outpatient centers. Others came to emergency rooms, and some were ultimately admitted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center or other hospitals operated by UCLA.

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recognized that the coronavirus had reached American shores in mid-January, when a man in Washington state who had traveled to the area around Wuhan tested positive for an infection. By then, UCLA doctors may have treated dozens of COVID-19 patients without realizing it, the study authors wrote. (Indeed, it would take another three weeks for COVID-19 to get its official name.)

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The researchers didn’t conduct any diagnostic tests, so they can’t say with certainty when doctors first encountered anyone infected with the virus that came to be known as SARS-CoV-2. But if the coronavirus had indeed been spreading under the radar since around Christmas, the pattern of patient visits to UCLA facilities would have looked a lot like what actually happened, they wrote in a study published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“A significantly higher number of patients with respiratory complaints and diseases starting in late December 2019 and continuing through February 2020 suggests community spread of SARS-CoV-2 prior to established clinical awareness and testing capabilities,” wrote the team led by Dr. Joann Elmore, who is both an internist and professor of health policy and management at UCLA.

To look for signs of early COVID-19 patients, Elmore and her colleagues searched through more than 9.5 million outpatient visits, nearly 575,000 emergency room visits and almost 250,000 hospital admissions going back more than five years. Medical records that said a patient complained of a cough were included in the analysis.

The researchers counted a total of 2,938 patients who went to a clinic seeking help for a cough in the 13 weeks between Dec. 1, 2019, and Feb. 29, 2020. That was about 1,047 more than the average number of cough patients seen during the same three-month period in the previous five years. It was also about 739 more than the number of patients seen in the winter of 2016-17, which until this year had been the busiest cough season for clinics since 2014.

In emergency rooms, the researchers tallied 1,708 cough patients this past December, January and February. That was about 514 more than the average for the previous five winters, and about 229 more than in 2018-19, the busiest of the five prior winters, the researchers estimated.

Finally, the search of medical records turned up 1,138 patients who were hospitalized in December, January or February and treated for acute respiratory failure. That was about 387 more than the average number of acute respiratory failure patients admitted over the previous five winters, and about 210 more than the number admitted in the winter of 2018-19, the worst of the five earlier winters.

“It is possible that some of this excess represents early COVID-19 disease before clinical recognition and testing,” Elmore and her colleagues wrote.

Breaking things down week by week, the study authors found that the number of cough patients coming to clinics this past winter was higher by a statistically significant margin in 10 out of the 13 weeks analyzed. That was also true for cough patients in ERs in six of the 13 weeks. And inside hospitals, the number of patients with acute respiratory distress was significantly higher in seven out of the 13 weeks.

Even if only some of these “excess visits” were from patients with COVID-19, it could still be a sign that the novel coronavirus was silently spreading in and around Los Angeles, the researchers wrote. As became clear later in the pandemic, about 40% of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 never develop any symptoms of illness, and those with minor symptoms might not bother seeking medical treatment. That means the patients who did go to a clinic or hospital probably represent just the tip of the iceberg, the study authors explained.

To be sure, some of these extra cough patients probably had the regular seasonal flu, especially since flu cases peaked earlier than usual this winter, the researchers wrote. It’s also possible that the 2019 outbreak of a vaping-related respiratory illness contributed to the excess, they added.

But the idea that the coronavirus was circulating in California even before Dec. 31, when the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission first announced its cluster of unexplained pneumonia cases, might not be far-fetched.

We now know that seven patients treated at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center in mid-March for a flu-like illness actually had COVID-19. The fact that they all felt well enough to leave their homes and had no clear ties to anyone who had recently visited a COVID-19 hotspot suggests they became infected through sustained community transmission, another group of researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Assn.

Similar cases seen in Santa Clara County around the same time suggest the virus was at large in the Bay Area by then as well, according to a study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

We may never know for sure exactly when the coronavirus arrived in Los Angeles — or anywhere else in the United States. Still, the results of the new study show that data gleaned from clinic medical records “can provide an early warning to emergency departments and hospital intensive care units of what is to come,” the UCLA team wrote.

“Lessons learned from this pandemic will hopefully lead to better preparation and the ability to quickly provide warnings and track the next pandemic,” they added.

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Angeles County

Los Angeles County Coronavirus Update: “Skyrocketing” New Cases, Hospitalizations Set New Records For Second Time In Last 3 Days – Deadline

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirms 59 new deaths and 4,592 new cases of COVID-19. This is the largest increase in new cases in L.A. since the pandemic began, surpassing the count from just two days before of 4,244 new cases. Over the last 48 hours there have been 7,350 new cases.

COVID-related hospitalizations are also at a record high of 2,173 people on Thursday. That surpasses the old record of 2,103 people hospitalized, which was also set on Tuesday.

To be absolutely clear, that means L.A. has set records for new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations on two out of the past three days.

Those numbers come on the same day the State of California reported that it’s 7-day running average of daily new cases totaled more than 8,000 for the first time. That average has risen 295 percent in the past month.

“We are seeing a higher rate and higher numbers than we’ve seen before,” said Los Angeles Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis earlier on Thursday.

Hospitalizations are skyrocketing in Los Angeles County. Please wear a cloth face covering and stay at least 6-feet… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) July 16, 2020

Dr. Davis indicated health officials are worried about hospital and ICU capacity. He said “all” the hospitals in the region are “looking at implementing surge capacity.”

Asked when those beds may run out, Dr. Davis said, “At this point, we don’t have an accurate number or trajectory” as to when the county will be out of ICU beds, but said the numbers are “skyrocketing.”

The number of ICU beds is more limited, and health officials are closely monitoring that situation.

There are currently 1389 available ICU beds out of a total of about 4800.

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Angeles County

Los Angeles County orders closure of garment manufacturer after 300 employees contract coronavirus | TheHill – The Hill

Los Angeles County health officials have ordered the closure of a garment manufacturing facility where more than 300 employees tested positive for the novel coronavirus, including four people who died from the disease.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) said in a statement Friday that the order came as a result of an investigation into Los Angeles Apparel, a basics apparel manufacturer and distributor founded in 2016. The company employs more than 350 people, according to its Facebook page.

DPH said that it initiated the probe after learning that three employees died of COVID-19 in June and that one succumbed to the virus in early July. 

“The death of four dedicated garment workers is heartbreaking and tragic,” DPH Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Business owners and operators have a corporate, moral and social responsibility to their employees and their families to provide a safe work environment that adheres to all of the health officer directives — this responsibility is important, now more than ever, as we continue to fight this deadly virus.”

DPH first ordered the Los Angeles Apparel plant on June 27 to shut down its operations after an earlier review found that it had committed “flagrant violations of mandatory public health infection control orders.” County officials also said that the garment manufacturer failed to cooperate with its review of a reported coronavirus outbreak at the facility. 

A health care provider had first notified DPH of a potential outbreak at the plant on June 19, the department noted, adding that it prompted an immediate investigation into the matter. As part of the probe, health officials requested a list of the apparel company’s employees to compare it to testing results DPH receives. But the company failed to comply with multiple requests for the list, county health officials said. 

Inspectors who visited the plant ahead of the June 27 order also observed “multiple violations of distancing requirements and infection control protocols.” The violations included cardboard being used as a barrier between employees. 

A couple weeks later, DPH advised that Los Angeles Apparel could only permit employees who had no symptoms to return. But the company “violated the Health Officer Order by reopening with apparently new employees, which DPH learned despite Los Angeles Apparel’s attempts to prevent DPH employees from entering the factory,” officials said. 

“At this time, Los Angeles Apparel is under orders to remain closed until they can show that the facility is in full compliance with Public Health mandates,” DPH said. 

Los Angeles Apparel did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill. 

Dov Charney, the company’s founder, pushed back on the allegations made by the health department while speaking with CNN. He contended that the decision was “political” in nature and disputed the statement that the company did not cooperate with the investigation.

He told CNN that the county health department did not tell the company that use of cardboard barriers wasn’t in line with health protocols. He also said he received no guidance about the hiring of new employees. 

“Absolutely, we brought in new employees,” Charney said. “What company can’t hire new employees? No one said do not hire new employees.”

The outbreak at the garment manufacturing facility in Los Angeles comes as Southern California and many other parts of the U.S. experience a surge in new coronavirus cases. California has reported more than 300,000 confirmed cases of the virus, more than a third of which have been recorded in Los Angeles County. 

The country reported approximately 4,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on July 7, marking a new single-day high. 

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Angeles Coronavirus

Los Angeles Coronavirus Update: Mayor Eric Garcetti Targeting Businesses Violations Saying, “We Will Not Hesitate To Shut You Down” – Deadline

On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced he was shutting down dine-in service in local restaurants, as well as indoor operations at movie theaters, indoor family entertainment businesses, card rooms and zoos.

Over the weekend, Newsom ordered bars and nightclubs closed. On Monday, he also announced a “strike team” of state enforcement agencies that would fan out and ensure compliance.

In his early evening news conference, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wanted to leave no doubt about his support for the measures saying, “Let me make this crystal clear to any business not complying with the rules: You need to comply with all regulations.”

Garcetti said state and local enforcement agencies would be surveying businesses. “We’ll look at you and, if necessary, close you down,” he said. “I’m not asking you to wear masks, I’m telling you.”

We were the first major city to require face coverings, and we must continue to wear them. Gathering with anybody except for those you live with may spread this virus. And that’s why more businesses and places where people gather indoors are closing or must operate differently.

— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) July 2, 2020

Garcetti said a number of factories in downtown L.A. had seen outbreaks. As a result, the mayor announced the city would be sending mobile clinics to factories in south L.A. to test workers to keep others from being infected. “We know that the 6 feet rule is being broken,” he said.

And to those factory owners Garcetti said, “We will not hesitate to shut you down, but we don’t want to shut you down.”

As far as small gatherings and parties over the Fourth of July weekend, the mayor reenforced pleas from Newsom and L.A. County health officials that people not mix with individuals from outside their household.

Garcetti said people violating the mask rule would not be ticketed, “I don’t want to turn Los Angeles into a police state,” he said. “But where we do see somebody blatantly defying the mask order or trying to infect someone, we have seen law enforcement engagement.”

He said he preferred to help people and encourage them, noting that the city had seen 95 percent compliance with a recent program on the Metro.

That said, in the long term Garcetti indicted he is worried about capacity issues with ventilators, hospital beds and ICU beds if the current trend lines do not slacken.

Earlier, Newsom also said he is hoping that people will comply with the guidelines voluntarily.

If they do not, the governor said he is deploying a “strike team” of government agencies to ensure compliance, especially where it concerns workplaces. Alcoholic Beverage Control, CalOSHA, the Department of Business Oversight, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the California Highway Patrol are among the agencies that will be enforcing the guidelines.

“We will have these agencies use their regulatory authority in six regions of the state,” a state official said at the press conference, “This will begin today.”

“We have a duty,” the governor said, to “go after” those who are not complying.

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Angeles Lakers

No Rift in Los Angeles Lakers Due to Opposing Stands by LeBron James and Dwight Howard: Reports – Essentially Sports

Since the NBA has agreed to a 22-team restart, players have had different views on it. Not all players were in favor of a restart. Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving led a conference call on Friday saying the restart would distract the people from the ongoing protests against social issues. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James felt otherwise.

James was not a part of Friday’s call that involved around 80 people. Reports suggest he felt the league restarting would not affect his ability to fight against social injustice. But two other Lakers players, Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley were in support of Irving’s views.

Howard also released a statement on the same. On Sunday, His agent Charles Briscoe came out saying people have been taking the statement wrongly. Talking to ESPN, Briscoe said his client’s statement was about social injustice and not basketball and that Howard has not taken his decision whether he would play if and when the league resumes.

“The statement was about social injustice and racism,” Briscoe said. “Yet everybody is still talking about whether basketball should be played. He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be. He’s just saying that you should not be taking attention away from what’s going on in the country to talk about basketball.

“Basketball is just a sport, at the end of the day. But what’s going on with people dying in the streets, that’s something real. That statement, it had nothing to do with sports. It had everything to do with racism and social injustice.”

Los Angeles Lakers stay unified as a team in spite of differences in opinion within

While opinions with the Lakers team might be varying, there do not seem to be any issues within the team. ESPN quoted a Lakers player as saying there is “no divide” within the team.

Dwight Howard statement, provided by his agent, to CNN: pic.twitter.com/sk9uSSHlpp

— Jill Martin (@ByJillMartin) June 14, 2020

As a team, the Lakers would be among the last ones who would be against the league’s restart. They have been among favorites to win the title this season. Prior to the league’s suspension, the Lakers were on top of the Western Conference with 49 wins. They had the best record in the league after Milwaukee Bucks.

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Angeles Police

Los Angeles police officer accused of repeatedly punching man is charged – NBC News

LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles police officer who was seen on video repeatedly punching a man in an encounter in April has been charged with felony assault, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Officer Frank Hernandez, 49, is set to be arraigned Thursday, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said.

“This is a disturbing case of the illegal use of force at the hands of a police officer,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a statement. “We believe the force was neither legally necessary nor reasonable.”

Prosecutors say that Hernandez and his partner responded to a call of a trespasser at a vacant lot in Boyle Heights on April 27 and that “during a confrontation between police and the victim, Hernandez is accused of illegally punching the unarmed man more than a dozen times in the head, neck and body.”

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The victim’s name was not disclosed in the statement. Richard Castillo last month filed a federal lawsuit stating that he was beaten in the incident, and his attorney confirmed that Castillo is the victim in the incident for which Hernandez is charged.

“I think it’s a really good first step in restoring the public’s faith in the legal system at this moment,” Castillo’s attorney, Wesley Ouchi, said in a phone interview Tuesday evening.

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“After seeing the videos, both the third-party video and the body camera video, as well, it’s really difficult to justify not prosecuting him,” Ouchi said.

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said no charges are being filed against the victim.

Hernandez has been stripped of all police powers and has been assigned home, the Los Angeles Police Department said. It said the complaint and use-of-force investigations are nearing completion.

“The Department has taken this matter very seriously from day-one and he will be held accountable for his actions,” Police Chief Michel Moore said in a statement.

The incident was captured in video recorded by a bystander, and the police department also released body camera video. At the time, Moore called the use of force in the video disturbing and said the body camera video would not change that description.

In video that went viral, two officers can be seen appearing to order a man to turn around near a fence outside a church.

In that video, a male officer tells the man: “Don’t fight. You’re fighting, man.” The man responds: “Ain’t nobody fighting.” The officer then throws punches to the back of the man’s head while shouting profanities.

The lawsuit filed by Castillo says the officer used closed fists to repeatedly strike him for 20 or more seconds while the other officer “failed to intervene.”

Hernandez was booked and released from custody Tuesday afternoon, a jail official said.

An attorney for Hernandez told NBC Los Angeles in May after video was released that he believed the officer would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

The complaint and use of force investigations of the April incident, that captured disturbing video of a confrontation with a trespassing suspect, are nearing completion.

Hernandez has been stripped of all police powers and has been assigned home.

— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) June 9, 2020

If convicted, Hernandez faces a possible maximum sentence of three years in county jail, the district attorney’s office said.

The Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, a police union, said in a statement that what is seen in the video is unacceptable.

“While we have a fiduciary responsibility to provide our members with assistance through the internal affairs administrative process, what we saw on that video was unacceptable and is not what we are trained to do,” the board said.

The alleged illegal use of force by Hernandez occurred around a month before the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, which sparked protests across the country and prompted calls for police reform.

Image: Phil helselPhil Helsel

Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.

Andrew Blankstein

Andrew Blankstein is an investigative reporter for NBC News. He covers the Western United States, specializing in crime, courts and homeland security. 

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