COVID-19 hospitalizations decline in L.A. County, but health officials say region not quite ready for further reopening

Coronavirus

The number of daily coronavirus hospitalizations in L.A. County continues to decline, but the region is not quite ready to move forward in the reopening process, officials noted.

As of Monday, there are 775 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a decline from just one day earlier.

“This number was over 1,000 just a couple of weeks ago and has dropped down similar to the numbers seen in April,” county public health officials said in a news release Sunday. “The decreasing number of daily hospitalizations is an important indicator because it is an accurate representation of how many people are currently seriously ill from the virus.”

But while coronavirus figures have fallen back to pre-surge levels, officials reminded residents that the respiratory illness is still easily spread from person to person, and continued to urge people to take necessary precautions.

The region has not yet gotten to a place where more sectors can safely reopen, including schools. In fact, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, reminded the public that in order to be able to move into Tier 2 of reopening, the county has to have a daily case rate lower than 7 new cases per 100,000, and as of last week, L.A. was at 9.6 cases.

“We need to go down quite a bit first,” Ferrer noted.

She said that in order to get a better sense of which sectors may be able to reopen, officials will have to look at data at the end of September to see what kind of effect Labor Day had, given that cases spiked significantly after other summer holidays and when some businesses reopened.

And while teams are working on rapid, inexpensive home testing, better therapeutics and a vaccine, there is no timeline on when those will be available, and we should expect to be coexisting with coronavirus for the foreseeable future, Ferrer said.

“I can’t really say with all certainty what will happen over the next six months except for the fact that … we’ll be living with COVID-19 here in our county, in our country and across the world,” the director said. “So we still need to manage, with whatever tools are available, our ability to slow and stop the spread of this very dangerous and devastating virus.”

Los Angeles Unified School District started the new school year online, with measures in place to test students and staff and alert parents of outbreaks at schools. Similarly, last week, California State University, the nation’s largest public university system, announced that online instruction will continue for the remainder of the academic year.

So far, 59 schools across the county have applied to reopen for in-person instruction for students who need special support. Ferrer said the county will be posting a list of schools who have applied weekly, and that officials will be offering those schools the help they need to reopen.

For two consecutive weeks, officials closed some coronavirus testing sites run by the county because of extreme heat and then poor air quality caused by two major wildfires, leading to a decrease in testing, Ferrer said. However, that doesn’t mean the county’s testing capacity has changed, and she encouraged people to get tested if they are showing symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

On Monday, the county reported 24 new deaths due to COVID-19 and 733 new cases, bringing totals to 6,231 deaths and 254,656 cases.

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