L.A. County reports lowest daily death count since March, but officials urge caution for those with underlying conditions

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Los Angeles County had been bracing for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases associated with the Labor Day holiday, but that increase has yet to surface leaving health officials optimistic.

“We are now three weeks out from Labor Day and have not experienced a surge in cases similar to after Memorial Day and July 4th,” County Public Health Director Barbara said at a news conference Monday. “While we may still see increases in cases due to activities over the Labor Day Holiday, we do not predict a similar surge.”

Health officials reported 663 new cases and one new death on Monday, bringing the countywide total to 268,455 with 6,515 deaths. There are 689 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 34% percent are being treated in the intensive care unit.

Ferrer noted Monday’s death count was the lowest reported since March when the pandemic hit, but said case and death counts at the beginning of the week are always lower due to a lag in weekend reporting. The most recent numbers including those from Sunday — 10 new deaths and 815 cases — are however indicative of a continued downward trend in comparison to the July peak of the virus, when more than 2,200 patients were being treated in local hospitals.

Health officials said it’s imperative to continue to consider those 20 to 30% of residents who are more susceptible to becoming very sick from COVID-19 including those in all age groups with underlying health conditions like diabetes, obesity, asthma and heart disease. Ninety-two percent of those who have passed away from coronavirus had an underlying condition.

“These are people throughout our communities who have conditions that place them at a higher risk for serious illness if they become infected with the virus,” Ferrer said. “Many are people who have to go to work or they’re out shopping for essentials and they’re taking care of their families. This is why it’s become part of our collective responsibility to do our very best not to transmit this virus.”

Ferrer said smokers are also very vulnerable to becoming extremely sick, and encouraged those who smoke to reconsider the habit.

“Recent studies have shown that those who smoke are two to four times more likely to get really sick, and by this mean you are admitted to an ICU,” Ferrer explained. “I know the idea of quitting smoking can be daunting, especially during a pandemic.”

L.A. County remains in the purple tier, or the most restrictive phase of the state’s four-tier color-coded system for reopenings. Last week the county met the state’s criteria for moving to the next less-restrictive tier, which includes the required seven-day average testing positivity rate and number of new cases per 100,000 residents, but it may not have been enough to move to the next tier because of the state’s 10 day lag in reporting.

“We already know that our numbers for the week ending the 19th of September were higher than they were for the week ending the 12th,” Ferrer said. “We anticipate that it might be a little hard for us to have met the threshold for tier two and if we don’t meet the threshold for tier two this week we start all over.”

On Sunday, L.A. Comic Con announced its plan to move forward with an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center. Health officials said it’s still “premature” to predict when the county may move toward allowing large-scale events.

“Even as you move through the tiers, the governor and the state have not yet announced when it will be OK to have large scale events,” Ferrer said Monday. “I think a lot will depend on what happens as we enter into the flu season.”

More than 2.6 million people in L.A. County have been tested for coronavirus and 9% of them have tested positive.

If you need help with quitting smoking or vaping, you can reach out to the California Smokers’ Helpline at 1-800-NO-BUTTS or visit LAQuits.com.

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