L.A. County’s coronavirus death toll climbs past 2,100 as residents mark Memorial Day

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Los Angeles County’s coronavirus death toll climbed past 2,100 Monday as its residents marked Memorial Day mostly in masks and under strict social distancing guidelines.

“On this Memorial Day, as we join with those mourning the loss of their loved ones to COVID-19, including the families of the 1,100 veterans who recently passed away from COVID-19, we want to honor the memory of all the members of the armed forces who courageously gave of themselves to protect our country,” the county’s public health director Barbara Ferrer said.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health reported 1,047 new coronavirus cases and another 12 deaths attributed to the respiratory illness it causes on Monday. The agency usually reports lower numbers on Mondays as labs close over the weekend.

With over 46,000 people known to have tested positive for the coronavirus, L.A. County remains the state’s epicenter of the pandemic.

And while surrounding counties have received clearances to reopen faster, residents in densely-populated L.A. County still can’t dine at restaurants, shop inside stores or gather in places of worship. Public health officials have stressed that L.A. County’s restrictions help avoid new infections that could overwhelm local hospitals.

While the state on Monday allowed retailers to reopen to the public and places of worship to again host in-person religious services, officials said reopening is still subject to approval by county health officials.

L.A. County’s health department said that while the newly revised health officer order allows for the reopening of beach bike paths and parking lots, and allows indoor mall curbside service and car parades, “retailers remain closed to public entry along with beach piers, and public and private gatherings of any number of people outside of a single household unit are still not permitted.”

Certain high-risk businesses like nail and hair salons are still closed and dining in restaurants remains prohibited.

Still, the long holiday weekend brought some crowds to beaches and trails statewide. In Altadena, the popular Eaton Canyon trails were closed on Memorial Day due to overcrowding at the hiking spot that saw visitors ignore public safety requirements over the weekend.

Officials have repeatedly warned that even as the county sees some progress in battling the spread of COVID-19, another spike in infections is possible if residents don’t adhere to public safety requirements as more spaces reopen — especially as the virus continues to have a devastating toll on those with health conditions.

So far, 93% of those who died of COVID-19 have had underlying health conditions, according to the health department.

“As we prepare to re-open many places and spaces that are still closed, it will require an extraordinary effort by all of us to prevent outbreaks among workers and residents,” Ferrer said. “Please take care of each other by wearing a face covering, keeping your distance when around others not in your household, avoiding crowds, washing your hands often, and isolating when you are positive for COVID-19 or a close contact of someone who is positive.”

As of Monday, a total of 6,190 people had been hospitalized for COVID-19 across the county, with 1,440 people currently hospitalized — 28% in intensive care units and 18% on ventilators.

The hospitalization rate for COVID-19, which has been stable in recent weeks, is one of the metrics the county is closely monitoring to help guide decisions on reopening more spaces.

That also includes tracking the seven-day average number of COVID-19 deaths to see if it has increased in the past two weeks. 

While the past week’s average number of deaths decreased by 3% overall, it increased 20% among Asian residents and 8% for Latino residents. Areas that have 20% to 30% of their populations living below the poverty line also continue to see an increase.

However, the average number of deaths among African Americans has stabilized. The group had seen continued increases in average deaths in recent weeks, according to the county’s data.

L.A. County also ramped up coronavirus testing capacity, recently surpassing its goal to test an average of at least 15,000 a day. As of Monday, the county’s numbers showed an average of 19,640 people had been tested for the virus each day over the past week.

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