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Santa Monica Sees One-Day Jump in Coronavirus Cases as County Curve Flattens

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By Jorge Casuso

April 10, 2020 -- Six new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Santa Monica on Friday, up from one on Thursday, as Los Angeles County Health officials reported a "flattening of the curve."

The County also extended until at least May 15 its stay-at-home order to further flatten the curve, a move some epidemiologists warn will prolong the pandemic.

The number of new cases in Santa Monica has fluctuated this week, reaching 20 on Friday and bringing the total to 88 since the first case was confirmed in the beach City on March 17.

Last week, there were 27 new cases in Santa Monica, according to data from the LA County Public Health Department.

County health officials on Friday confirmed 475 new cases and 18 deaths, marking the second consecutive day that saw a drop in the number of deaths.

According to County health officials, 28 percent those who have died from coronavirus were residents of nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities.

To date, 8,430 cases have been confirmed in the County of 10 million residents.

Health officials on Friday warned that lifting the orders to stay home and shutter "non-essential" businesses before mid May could lead to a spike in infections, with nearly 96 percent of the population possibly contracting the virus by August 1.

"Because everyone here is doing their part, because people are heeding the directives, we have seen what we now can confirm is in fact a flattening of the curve in a way that’s actually saving lives," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the County's Public Health Director.

Following the orders, Ferrer said, is also "allowing us to have a chance at making sure that our health care system remains able to serve all who need care,” Ferrer said.

“But because there are so many people who are infected in L.A. County, and because there’s still so much spread, we have to continue to keep ourselves physically apart from each other during the next few weeks.”

Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the LA County Department of Health Services, said maintaining the current levels of physical distancing would reduce the percentage of the population infected by August 1 from 95.6 percent to 30 percent.

“If we’re able to increase the level of physical distancing -- people are able to remain at home more than they are today -- then we could reduce the number of infected individuals even further, down to an estimated 5.5 percent.”

Some epidemiologists contend that lockdowns and social distancing that flatten the curve prolong the virus by preventing the population from developing immunity at a natural rate.

“All respiratory epidemics end when 80 percent of all people have become immune,” Dr. Knut M. Wittkowski, the former chief biostatistician and epidemiologist at Rockefeller University Hospital told The New York Post.

“Then if a new person gets infected, the person doesn’t find anybody else to infect," Wittkowski said. "The best strategy you can do is isolate the old and fragile people."

Wittkowski believes that spending time outdoors is a more effective way of containing respiratory diseases than staying at home.

Friday's County order extending the deadline also requires those who work at essential businesses, as well as customers, to wear a cloth face covering effective April 15.

Santa Monica on Thursday imposed a similar order that carries fines of up to $500 for patrons and $1,000 for businesses ("Santa Monica Workers, Customers Must Wear Face Coverings or Face Fines," April 9, 2020).

Under the County's new order, "all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit remain prohibited," County officials said.

To date, 2,043 people who tested positive for COVID-19 -- 24 percent -- have been hospitalized at some point during their illness.

Since last Friday the number of tests administered have spiked from fewer than 29,000 to nearly 40,700, County officials said. Of those tested, 15 percent showed positive.

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