Los Angeles County health officials expressed cautious optimism Monday that community spread of COVID-19 has started to slow and that other key indicators are stabilizing.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we’re getting back on track to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” county Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday. “I want to emphasize the word cautiously. We’re still seeing that on average last week, 2,000 people were hospitalized each day.”
However, she said the good news is that the number of hospitalizations have started to go down. There are 1,784 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 currently hospitalized, 30% of whom are in intensive care units and 18% who are on ventilators.
“At the beginning of the month, we were averaging about 1,900 hospitalizations for COVID-19. Mid-month, we had again a precipitous climb ticked up to about 2,200 hospitalizations. And now we find ourselves on the decline with under 2,000 hospitalizations on average a day,” Ferrer said.
In order to get off California’s monitoring list, the rate of hospitalization needs to be below 8% for 14 consecutive days.
“We do hope because we’re seeing the number of people hospitalized stabilize that we’ll start to see fewer people passing away,” Ferrer said.
The number of new cases reported per day has also gone down, with Monday’s average hovering around 2,600 — down from a couple weeks ago when the county was seeing over 3,000 cases per day.
“It’s still really high, but it does show progress,” Ferrer said. “These positive trends that we’re seeing though can be attributed to a variety of things, but all of them entailed significant sacrifices from so many people across the county and all of the decreased opportunities for transmission.”
The seven-day positivity rate remained mostly flat throughout July, hovering between 8% and 8.8%, officials said.
The downward trend in cases and hospitalizations comes about three weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered several business sectors to halt indoor operations to curb the spread of the virus due to a spike in cases.
But the health director said it remains to be seen whether the county will be able to sustain the trend over coming weeks, and it’s no reason to return to business-as-usual right away.
L.A. County reported 1,634 new coronavirus cases and 12 new deaths Monday, bringing the countywide total to 193,499 cases and 4,701 deaths. The county typically reports fewer cases during weekends and on Mondays due to lab closures.
Those who test positive for the virus are encouraged by public health authorities to respond to calls from contact tracers. Starting Monday, a $20 gift card was being offered as an incentive.
Since April, tracers have contacted nearly 152,000 people who are confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, and 65% of those people agreed to complete an hour-long interview. In 32% of the cases, officials were either unable to locate the person or the person refused to talk to them.
More than 82,000 people have been identified as having come into contact with those who have tested positive, Ferrer said Monday. And 68% of all of the close contacts conducted a full interview with the tracers.