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Coronavirus Fatality Rate "Much Lower" Than Previously Thought, LA County Health Officials Say

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By Jorge Casuso

April 20, 2020 -- The coronavirus is far more widespread and far less deadly in Los Angeles County than health officials previously thought, according to a study released by health officials Monday.

Preliminary findings of the groundbreaking anti-body test -- conducted in partnership with USC -- suggest that between 221,000 and 442,000 adults in the County of 10 million have had the infection.

That estimate -- based on 863 adults tested between April 10 and 14 -- is 28 to 55 times higher than the 7,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the County by the time of the study in early April.

According to LA County Health officials, the results indicate that "infections from the COVID-19 are far more widespread -- and the fatality rate much lower -- in L.A. County than previously thought."

Health officials on Monday also cautioned that the number of daily cases the County Health Department has been reporting reflects "periodic increases" as new labs release testing results.

"As part of efforts to increase testing capacity in the county, many new labs responded to the emergency and are working with Public Health to ensure that they have the proper reporting systems in place," County officials said.

"Until this reporting issue is resolved, there may be periodic increases in positive cases and total cases due to unevenness in daily reporting," officials said.

The total number of tests administered has spiked from fewer than 30,000 on April 10 to more than 80,500 nine days later, officials said.

The 1,491 new cases confirmed Monday -- up from 334 new cases reported Sunday -- are a dramatic illustration of how the daily tallies health officials release are not an accurate reflection of the spread of the virus.

Of the new cases confirmed Monday, 1,191 were from a backlog of tests received from one lab, health officials said.

When the numbers are adjusted, the number of new cases confirmed by the County Monday drops to 293, said health officials, who added that the "dramatic increase in case counts should not cause undue alarm."

The 17 deaths reported Monday were the least since 15 deaths were reported two weeks ago on April 6, according to data provided by the County Public Health Department.

Of the deaths reported Monday, 12 of the deceased had underlying health conditions and 13 were over the age of 65.

To date, nearly 90 percent of the 617 persons who have died in LA County had underlying health conditions and more than one-third were in nursing homes, health officials said.

These conditions include "chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, severe obesity, diabetes, chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis and liver disease," according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The number of deaths due to coronavirus may also be inflated by the criteria used by health authorities. Coronavirus deaths include all those who had the virus when they died.

There were nine new cases of the virus confirmed in Santa Monica Monday, bringing the total to 124 cases in the city of approximately 93,000.

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