1 in 3 L.A. County residents know someone who died or became seriously ill from COVID-19, health officials say

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The novel coronavirus’ widespread impact has become apparent a year after the pandemic hit Los Angeles County, with officials estimating 1 in 3 residents were close to someone who either died or was hospitalized from COVID-19.

County public health Director Barbara Ferrer shared the somber statistic in a news briefing Monday, highlighting the pandemic’s toll ahead of L.A. County’s expected advance next week into the red tier of the governor’s reopening plan.

“Given how close we are to getting millions more doses of vaccines delivered to county vaccination sites, let’s do our very best to keep each other alive,” Ferrer said. “We are not yet on the other side, but we are getting close.”

With spring break and the Easter and Passover holidays approaching, Ferrer warned the progress made toward reopening could be lost if Angelenos ignore warnings against traveling and gathering.

“The Thanksgiving and winter holidays provided us with ample evidence about the dangers of travel and gatherings,” she said. “We had made great progress late summer and early fall, and we lost a lot of ground over the holidays. The consequences in our community were horrific.”

Still in the state’s most-restrictive purple tier, L.A. County is likely to progress by the middle of next week into the slightly more lax red tier of reopening, which would allow indoor dining, gyms and movie theaters to open with limited capacity — among other changes.

Ferrer said public health officials are still working with the county Board of Supervisors on new guidelines for the region, which can differ from those set forth by the state.

The health director expressed some concern about reopening, citing a study released last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed allowing dining at restaurants can increase cases and deaths. The same study also gave strong evidence that masks can slow the virus’ spread.

“Until almost everyone is vaccinated, we’re going to continue to rely on required mask wearing when around others in public spaces,” Ferrer said.

However, the CDC also released new guidance Monday, saying those who are fully vaccinated can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing.

A graph released March 8, 2021, by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows the average number of coronavirus cases reported daily during the pandemic compared with instances of virus restrictions being relaxed.
A graph released March 8, 2021, by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows the average number of coronavirus cases reported daily during the pandemic compared with instances of virus restrictions being relaxed.

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