LOS ANGELES — After Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials said a Los Angeles County resident may have been the first juvenile to die from the novel coronavirus in the United States, health authorities cautioned against drawing that conclusion until more testing is done.
The person lived in Lancaster, according to county health officials. Health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer told CNN the person, under the age of 18, was not a small child.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday evening the patient was a teenager. He called the death a “tragic loss.”
Shortly after Newsom spoke, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a brief statement indicating the minor’s death will require further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality,” the county department said.
It is unclear how the person contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, Ferrer had said.
Coronavirus-related deaths in children remain relatively rare.
“In the mortality data that has been provided to us, there has been no child under 15 that has succumbed to the virus in Europe,” Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said during a White House briefing Monday. “There was the one 14-year-old in China. So we still see that there is less severity in children, and so that should be reassuring to the moms and dads out there.”
According to studies, two children, a 10-month-old infant and a 14-year-old boy, died in China after being infected with the novel coronavirus.
The 10-month-old infant who died had a preexisting condition. The child experienced multi-organ failure and died four weeks after being admitted to a hospital in Wuhan, according to research published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The 14-year-old boy from Hubei province died February 7. No further details were available on his death, which was reported in a study published last week in Pediatrics that looked at 2,143 children with confirmed or suspected coronavirus.
New York hit hard but not only state suffering
News of the California death came amid reports of significant spikes in cases elsewhere. With more tests available, experts had predicted such a rise.
With more than 25,000 positive tests and 210 deaths, New York has become the epicenter of coronavirus cases in the United States, but in recent days, the numbers in Louisiana, New Jersey and other states also have been skyrocketing.
Louisiana, which reported no cases until mid-March, topped the 1,000 mark and the state has seen more than 500 new cases reported since the weekend, with 1,388 cases and 46 deaths by Tuesday afternoon.
Gov. John Bel Edwards requested a federal major disaster declaration for his state.
In his request to the President, Edwards said Louisiana has more cases per capita than any state, except for New York and Washington.
“We have overwhelmed our stocks of key resources needed for our hospitals, first responders and emergency managers,” he wrote.
New Jersey added more than 800 cases from Monday to Tuesday, for a total of 3,675 positive tests and 44 deaths. That makes New Jersey the second-highest state case total in the nation. Last week alone, New Jersey cases increased tenfold.
The state is under a stay at home order. Gov Phil Murphy said not everyone is adhering to the mandate.
“We must have 100 percent compliance. This is about public health and it’s about people’s lives. Your employee’s lives, their families’ lives, and your life,” he said.
Michigan’s total rose from just 65 cases about week ago to 1,791 on Tuesday afternoon, including 15 deaths.
Pennsylvania saw a spike of more than 200 cases overnight, bringing the total to 851 cases statewide on Tuesday. Of those cases, seven people have died.
Florida and Georgia — two states where political leaders have faced criticism over their timing on enacting restrictions — both crossed the 1,000-case mark over the weekend and continue to rise significantly each day. As of Tuesday afternoon, Florida recorded 1,324 cases and 17 deaths, while Georgia reported 1,026 cases and 32 fatalities.
Additionally, Indiana went from a handful of cases about a week ago to 365.
New York governor demands ventilators
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo demanded the federal government take dramatic action to send thousands of stockpiled ventilators immediately to his state first, saying the Empire State’s immense coronavirus caseload threatened catastrophe in days without it.
He said his state needs 30,000 more ventilators on top of the 7,000 it has.
Cuomo wants all of what he called a current federal stockpile of 20,000 ventilators to brace for the coming “apex” in cases in New York, which he says will arrive as soon as 14 days.
“We need the federal help, and we need the federal help now,” Cuomo said.
“New York is the canary in the coal mine. New York is going first — we have the highest and fastest rate of infection.”
“(After) we get over that curve … I’ll send ventilators, I’ll send health care workers … around the country.”
His comments come as more than 51,000 coronavirus cases were reported in the country by Tuesday afternoon with more than half of those in in New York. At least 659 people in the US have died.
The governor said his state was trying to address two other needs: More hospital beds and more medical staff.
He said the state needed 140,000 hospital beds for an anticipated patient apex in as in soon as two weeks, yet the state now has only 53,000 beds. Cuomo said he was speaking to hotel owners “about taking over their hotels” to place some patients.
“I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds that we need,” he said.
About 1,000 beds are being set up in Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center. Those beds generally will be for noncritical overflow patients, freeing up intensive care units in hospitals, Cuomo said.
Cuomo –along with other governors — have called on President Donald Trump to use the Defense Production Act to get companies to produce supplies like ventilators on the government’s timetable.
More than 40% of US live in states with stay-at-home orders
Cuomo’s comments come as general stay-at-home orders — intended to slow the spread of the disease so medical professionals can better handle incoming cases — will be in effect in at least 17 states by Wednesday.
More than 40% of the US population lives in those states, including New York, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Washington state and Wisconsin. The orders generally demand nonessential workers stay home.
In other states, city or county leaders have announced similar orders, including Atlanta, Denver and San Antonio. Texas’ Harris and Tarrant counties, covering the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas, also have these orders.
While Trump has expressed a desire to soon transition away from social distancing to help the economy, public health experts and physicians are generally urging they stay in place longer, as cases are nearly overwhelming health care systems in New York City and other areas.
“The (distancing) we have put in place over the last eight days … you won’t see the impact of that for at least another seven or 14 days,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday.
“What we’re seeing in hospitals right now are people who most likely got exposed and sick more than two weeks ago,” she said on “Today.”
White House aides are scrambling to find a compromise option. Discussions include a phased system in which younger people — potentially under 40, according to one option — return to the workplace or business first, followed gradually by people slightly older until most of the country is back to normal, officials say.
Last week, the White House released guidelines urging Americans to avoid eating at bars or restaurants and skip out on gatherings with more than 10 people for the rest of March.
On Monday evening, the President said “it won’t be that long” until things jump back to normal.
But health officials have saida lack of firm federal direction and residents ignoring social distancing guidelines could result in more sharp increases of cases and hospitalizations that will overwhelm the country’s health system.
“I think we’re far away from (the end of social distancing), quite frankly,” said Dr. Celine Gounder, a CNN medical analyst and infectious disease specialist at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center, on Tuesday morning.
‘Like going to war with a water gun’
Supply shortages aren’t unique to New York. Doctors have sounded the alarm on vanishing medical supplies across the country.
When it comes to personal protective equipment, Dr. Jason Halperin of Crescent Care in New Orleans told CNN they were in “urgent need of everything.”
Working in a hospital without that protective equipment, a nurse in a South Texas hospital told CNN, is like “going to war with a water gun.”
“Everything is limited,” the nurse said, “PPE, ventilators, beds, negative pressure rooms, nurses etc.”
One Seattle intensive care nurse told CNN she was told to wear a single N95 mask “indefinitely.”
“We’re being told that we have to use these until they’re soiled, and if they get to that point, we have to show them to our (supervisor).”