By Sharon Bernstein and Mike Blake
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles are spiking, putting the region on track to have as many cases as hard-hit New York in five days, Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Friday, speaking from a naval hospital ship in the Port of Los Angeles.
The number of cases in Los Angeles County soared by 50% on Thursday and another 20% by noon on Friday for a total of 1,465, Garcetti said at a news conference with Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom aboard the ship.
If the increases continue at Thursday’s rate, the county will meet New York City’s 25,398 cases in five days; if the cases increase by Friday’s rate it will take just a few more days to catch up to the hard-hit East Coast metropolis.
“Our modeling is moving as we expected,” said Newsom. “In Los Angeles, they’re seeing surge numbers that put them on track within a week to be in line with where New York City currently is.”
Newsom and Garcetti toured the U.S.N.S. Mercy Hospital Ship, set up at the Port of Los Angeles to provide an additional 1,000 beds to the region’s strapped medical system. The ship will be used for non-COVID-19 cases so that other hospitals can increase their capacity to care for victims of the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The increased capacity in California comes as doctors and nurses on the front lines of the U.S. coronavirus crisis pleaded on Friday for more protective gear and equipment to treat waves of patients expected to overwhelm hospitals as the number of known U.S. infections reached over 100,000.
The United States ranked sixth in death toll among the hardest hit countries, with at least 1,551 lives lost, according to a Reuters tally of official data. Worldwide, confirmed cases rose above 576,000 with 26,455 deaths, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported.
The most populous U.S. state has checked 88,400 people for the virus as of Friday, but results from tens of thousands of those tests have yet to come in, Newsom said. It is taking a week or more to process them, he said, declining to speculate how many would end up testing positive.
As of Friday, 3,801 people had tested positive for coronavirus in California, and 78 had died, Newsom said.
Earlier on Friday, Newsom announced that he had banned all coronavirus-related evictions in the state through May 31.
Tenants who have lost their jobs due to public health restrictions or who have contracted the virus are among those who can apply to have eviction proceedings halted, he said. They must apply within seven days of missing a payment.
(Reporting by Bill Tarrant, editing by Pritha Sarkar)