A year to the day that Los Angeles County first issued its initial health alert warning about an “outbreak of pneumonia of unknown etiology in Wuhan City, China” — now known around the globe as COVID-19 — health officials have reported more dire statistics resulting from the virus’ deadly grip.

A record-breaking 318 new coronavirus deaths were reported in Los Angeles County on Friday, along with 18,313 new cases. Before the latest tally, the highest number of virus-related deaths was 291 deaths reported on New Year’s Eve.

To further put the daily coronavirus death rate in perspective, the county’s Chief Science Officer Dr. Paul Simon said on average there are 170 deaths per day in the county from all causes combined.

“The scale of tragedy associated with this pandemic is unfathomable, even more so because so much of it has been preventable,” Simon said at a news conference on Friday.

Friday was the fourth consecutive day more than 200 people in the county lost their lives to the deadly virus. The sobering number of deaths have resulted in state officials working to set up makeshift morgues to help with the handling of the bodies.

“The very high numbers I report today are sadly no surprise. They didn’t catch it by accident,” Simon said. “They are a direct result of the many people who were not following the necessary precautions over the winter holiday. Not worrying. Not limiting contact with those outside the household, not physically distancing when outside of the home and not refraining from travel.”

Countywide there have been 889,405 coronavirus cases and 11,863 deaths since the start of the pandemic. There are currently 8,074 people hospitalized with the virus, and 20% of them are being treated in the intensive care units at health care facilities countywide that are inundated with patients battling the respiratory illness. As of Friday afternoon, the ICU capacity in the Southern California region remained at 0%.

Health officials expect to see the dramatically high numbers of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations to continue through at least the end of the month.

More than 4.9 million residents have been tested for coronavirus, 17% of them have been positive.

As of Wednesday, there have been 151,722 COVID-19 vaccinations given across Los Angeles County to help get the coronavirus under control, but officials said more patience is needed.

“We’re asking folks to really hang in there two more months while we roll out the vaccine, we’re hoping and we’re quite optimistic there will be some relief,” Simon said. “But it’s going to take a couple more months to even begin to see the impact of the vaccine.”

Beginning on Monday, all frontline health care workers in Phase1A will be able to register for the vaccine.

Health officials said vaccine distribution is expected to be rolled out to those in Phase 1B, including those 75 and older, in early February.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine phases through L.A. County, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov.

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By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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