As Los Angeles County begins to see less coronavirus transmission and potential reopenings on the horizon, officials warned that the county must learn from its past.
“If we can maintain this lower transmission, it means that we could begin to think about schools, and more businesses reopening, or some day moving their operations back indoors,” Health Officer Muntu Davis said at a news conference. “But what I’d like to stress is the importance of all of us learning from our recent past, and the spikes in cases, hospitalizations, as well as deaths in our community that we experienced in July.”
Seeing coronavirus number stabilize in late May and early June, officials reopened more spaces previously shuttered to curb the spread of the virus.
The reopenings were followed by a rise in coronavirus cases recorded in late June, followed by an alarming spike in mid-July, when state and local officials rolled back reopenings and ordered indoor operations to close at several sectors.
Davis attributed the surge to people not wearing face coverings, not keeping their distance from others and many businesses not complying with infection control practices.
Since closing some indoor businesses and with improved compliance among the majority of businesses that were open, L.A. County’s percentage of positive coronavirus test results and COVID-19 hospitalizations went back down to levels seen in early June, Davis said.
“As we continue our journey of recovery, we must all proceed with caution,” he said, urging residents to wear masks, avoid gatherings and follow health officer orders.
L.A. County recorded 1,198 new cases and another 13 COVID-19 deaths Monday, bringing the countywide case total to 232,893 with 5,558 deaths
There were 1,219 people hospitalized for COVID-19 Monday, 32% of them in intensive care units and 18% on ventilators — a number that continues to show a decline in hospitalizations after July’s surge.
L.A. County remains on California’s watch list for heightened coronavirus activity, as are all its neighboring counties, with the exception of Orange County, which was taken off the list Sunday.
A county can land on the list for having high case rates and hospitalizations, among other indicators of elevated virus transmission. Counties on the list were ordered to close indoor operations at fitness centers, places of worship, hair salons and other locations in July, and they can’t open schools for in-classroom learning, with the exception of elementary schools that are granted waivers.
L.A. County continues to meet five of six indicators to get off the list, only failing to meet a requirement of having less than 100 cases per 100,000 residents.
The county’s case rate per 100,000 people stood at 218 over the weekend — down from 295 one week ago.
Indicators on testing capacity, virus transmission, COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospitals capacity and ventilator supplies all meet the state’s thresholds.
If the county can get off the monitoring list, and maintain numbers below state thresholds for two weeks straight, schools could reopen for in-person instruction, according to an order by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“Classes reopening doesn’t mean that everything will go back to normal, and we’ll return to the way it was before COVID-19,” Davis said. “Classes reopening means that we take to heart the lessons we’ve learned in from July, and move forward in a new normal of making the infection control practices part of our day to day lives for the foreseeable future.”
While L.A. County sees progress in its fight against the virus, younger residents continue to drive up the majority of the county’s new cases.
Residents between the ages of 30 and 49 years old have the highest number of new cases among all age groups in L.A. County, the health department said Saturday, when those under 50 years old accounted for 71% of infections reported that day.
“Together we must all take our role seriously and be diligent,” Davis said. “It is everyone’s goals to get to a place where we have a safer reopen, but community transmission rates must continue to decrease, if we are to get to this point, including where schools can reopen in a way that is safer for students, teachers and staff members.”