Los Angeles County health officials reported another 29 deaths due to COVID-19 Sunday amid looser restrictions on retail stores, parks and beaches.
Last week, the county slowly began reopening some parts of the local economy and public spaces as health officials continue to report hundreds more known cases daily. On Sunday, the county’s Department of Public Health announced 694 infections in the last day, bringing the total to 37,974. The viral outbreak has killed 1,821 people in the county.
A new health order that went into effect Wednesday opened the way for more businesses and outdoor spaces to pick operations back up. But retailers can only sell through curbside or door-side service and must require customers and employees to wear masks, limit capacity inside businesses to keep people 6 feet apart among other restrictions.
Facial coverings continue to be a requirement for everything from going to the beach (except when in the water) to shopping at the grocery store. Mayor Eric Garcetti has said people should wear a mask when doing any outdoor activity at all, a step that goes further any other city in the state.
L.A. County has seen more known cases and deaths than any other county in California. It represents about a quarter of the state’s population, but in recent weeks, has often reported around half the known cases and fatalities statewide.
Nursing homes, jails, shelters, prisons and other such institutional settings were linked to more than half of the county’s deaths on Thursday. Such facilities have been reporting clusters of infections and deaths for weeks but that day marked a solemn new milestone.
Health officials have said they are performing targeted testing at such facilities, striving to get all staff and residents tested, particularly at skilled nursing sites. They have been linked to more deaths than any of the other institutional settings, County Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said.
Thirty-one nursing homes were tied to 10 or more deaths, according to data from the county’s heath department. The worst death toll is at Grand Park Convalescent Hospital in the Westlake district, which has seen 25 deaths due to COVID-19. Sixty-one residents there have been infected in addition to 31 staff members.
Residents of nursing homes remain the most vulnerable to the virus given their older age, underlying health conditions and the relatively close living quarters they often face.
Of the 29 deaths reported Sunday, 24 were people over the age of 65, four were between 41 and 65 years old and one person was between 18 and 40 years old. The youngest person and 15 of the other patients had an underlying health condition.
As she has several times before, Ferrer said more precautions should be taken by those with an underlying health condition — particularly chronic lung disease, asthma, a serious heart condition, HIV and other illnesses that affect the immune system.
“More people will be out of their homes now that we are in the early stages of our recovery journey, and this means there will be more chances of coming in contact with asymptomatic people who are infected with COVID-19,” Ferrer said in a news release from the department.
“If you have an underlying health condition … it is so important that you continue to do your best to stay home as much as possible, avoid close contact with others, and if you begin to feel sick contact your provider immediately,” Ferrer said “It’s also a good idea to talk to employers and friends and let them know you are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.”
A total of 16% of everyone who has tested positive, or 5,816 people, had to be hospitalized at some point. Of 1,648 patients currently still hospitalized, 26% are in intensive care units.
More information on the virus in L.A. County and who it’s affecting can be found here.