Battling A Pandemic Across 4,750 Square Miles And 10 Million People

LOS ANGELES — Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s top health official, is in the hot seat as the COVID-19 pandemic exacts its rising toll.

With over 10 million residents, the county is by far California’s largest, and it has the most confirmed coronavirus cases. Ferrer, who has been director of the Department of Public Health for three years, leads a daily press briefing in which she tries to keep up morale while dutifully reciting the latest sobering statistics.

On Thursday, she reported 7,955 confirmed COVID-19 infections countywide, up from 16 a month ago. Twenty-five new deaths brought the county total to 223.

Ferrer intersperses the grim news with words of empathy for health care workers on the front lines and low-wage workers who can’t afford to leave their jobs, as well as advice for people hunkering down at home,

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Young People Weigh Pain Of Job Loss Against Risks Of Virus

Emilio Romero, 23, has mixed feelings about losing his job. It’s a major financial setback, but with two previous hospitalizations for pneumonia, a restaurant was not the safest place for the recent college graduate as the COVID-19 pandemic mushroomed.

“Working in a restaurant, there’s obviously exposure to a lot of people and dirty plates,” Romero said. “Even before I was officially laid off, I was getting pretty nervous about the way everything was playing out, for my own safety.”

Romero worked his last shift as a restaurant host in San Diego’s Little Italy on March 16, the same day San Diego County officials ordered all restaurants to switch to takeout and delivery only. Since then, COVID-19 cases in California have increased by more than 22 times, from 598 to 13,438 as of April 4. If

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