As Angelenos start removing their masks and mingling more with the reopening of the state’s economy Tuesday, public health officials say Los Angeles County is currently faring better in the battle against COVID-19 than any other major metropolitan areas in the nation.
L.A. County is seeing an average of 1.5 cases per 100,000 people diagnosed each day. That compares to 2.8 cases in the same population in the New York City metro area, 2.9 cases in Chicago, 3.5 cases in Atlanta, 5.3 cases in Houston and 9.1 cases in Miami, the L.A. County Department of Health said in a news release.
The county — by far the most populous in the U.S. — also has a lower testing positivity rate at 0.4%, compare with 0.8% in New York, 1.3% in Chicago, 1.7% in Atlanta, 3.3% in Houston and 3.7% in Miami, officials said.
The news comes after California lifted most of its pandemic restrictions at midnight. That includes the rollback of masking requirements for vaccinated people as well as distancing and capacity limits at public venues including restaurants, bars, gyms, amusement parks and stadiums.
This winter, L.A. County was considered one of the epicenters of the pandemic in the U.S. Deaths peaked at more than 275 residents a day, with more than 8,000 patients hospitalized each day on average and more than 15,000 new infections confirmed daily.
“After 16 months of enormous upheaval and loss, we can now move forward with a genuine sense of hope,” L.A. County public health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “We can and should feel joy while recognizing and honoring the immense collective effort that brought us to the point where we can fully reopen.”
On Tuesday, L.A. County reported six new coronavirus-related deaths and 210 infections. That brings the pandemic’s total to more than 1.2 million cases and 24,416 fatalities.
More than 200 people were battling the virus at county hospitals Tuesday, with 20% of them in intensive care, officials said.
Meanwhile, as of this week around 66% of eligible Angelenos have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 56% of residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Public Health.
“Case counts and transmission are low because of our shared efforts to implement a layered approach to preventing transmission,” Ferrer said. “As we reopen, we are mindful that for those not yet vaccinated, protection is highly dependent on our continued actions to take care of each other.”
The continued precautions include mandated masking and distancing for employees at businesses across California. But workplace regulators at the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health are expected to vote Thursday on new rules that would allow most fully vaccinated workers to stop wearing masks and end physical distancing.
Regardless of their vote, masks will still be required on public transit; indoors at K-12 schools and in other youth settings; in medical facilities and nursing homes; jails; courthouses; and shelters and cooling centers. Anyone not fully vaccinated — including all children under 12 years old — will still be required to put on a mask in all indoor public spaces and businesses.