Los Angeles County could move into the next reopening stage as early as October if there is no new surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations associated with Labor Day weekend, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.
She explained that while the region’s case positivity rate — now only at slightly higher than 3% — meets standards to move into less restrictive Tier 2, the current daily case of rate of 8.1 cases per 100,000, does not.
“If we don’t see a surge in cases and hospitalizations associated with activities over Labor Day, and we continue to reduce our rate of community transmission over the weeks ahead, we could enter Tier 2 sometime in October,” Ferrer said.
She emphasized that the test positivity rate is the lowest the county has seen to date.
“This means that almost 97% of the tests that people took for COVID-19 ended up being negative,” she said.
Earlier this week, Ferrer said that while the total number of daily hospitalizations continues to decline, the region is not yet at a place where it can further ease restrictions.
Officials will be examining overall figures at the end of September to see how Labor Day — when temperatures soared and people flocked to local beaches — affected case rates.
Residents should not let their guard down and continue adhering to guidelines meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus, officials said.
And as Rosh Hashanah approaches on Sept. 19, Ferrer also advised residents in advance of other fall and winter holidays to only gather with members of their own household.
“I do encourage all of us to think now about how we might want to modify our plans so we can share the joy of the holiday while reducing the risk of transmitting a dangerous and sometimes deadly virus,” she said.
Additionally, cases, hospitalizations and death rates among highly impacted groups continue to decline and disparity gaps are starting to close, Ferrer said.
For example, in June the average case rate among Latinos was at 200 cases per 100,000, which was four times higher than among white residents, and five times higher than among Asians.
But in September, while cases among Latinos were still higher than others, they dropped to an average of 40 cases per 100,000, Ferrer explained.
One outlier being monitored closely by health officials is a “slight spike” in deaths among Black residents between late August and early September.
“We will need to pay close attention to make sure we’re not seeing increases in deaths among one population while we’re seeing decreases everywhere else,” Ferrer noted. “We need to be mindful of the impact of our reopenings and our actions both across the entire county, and especially among those people who are most affected by this pandemic.”
On Wednesday, officials reported 31 new deaths and 1,148 new cases, bringing the total to 6,303 deaths and 256,148 cases.