COVID-19 hospitalizations in L.A. County reach lowest level since April, Mayor Garcetti says

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday that COVID-19-related hospitalization rates in L.A. County are declining.

“I’m proud to share that our hospitalizations are now down to the lowest level we have seen since April 7 — more than three months ago,” he said. “That’s a significant achievement and a fragile one.”

There were 420 patients severely sick with the virus in intensive care units throughout the county Friday, and although “no number is a good number,” the mayor said, that’s a substantial decrease since last month.

L.A. County estimates its rate of transmission is now at 0.92, which is up a bit from 0.86 last week, but as long as it remains below 1, case loads should continue to fall, the mayor said.

Although the number of young people testing positive for COVID-19 has been increasing, the county’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, said Thursday that new cases may soon drop low enough to allow officials to apply for waivers to reopen elementary schools.

Under state guidelines, schools can apply for waivers if they get below 200 cases per 100,000 people, which is 20,000 cases over a 14 day period. But Garcetti said the county is now hovering at about 250 to 300 cases, which is 25,000 to 30,000 cases over a two week period.

“To put that in perspective, thus, we’d have to cut almost in half as many cases we had today just to apply for a waiver for schools, and we’d need to sustain that for two weeks, and cut as much by two thirds where we are still today, to get off the state watch list and keep that going for two weeks,” he said.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases throughout L.A. County reached 229,054 Friday, with a total of 5,491 deaths, public health officials said.

“This week we saw fewer cases overall, with 10,801 cases, compared to 14,863 in the week prior,” Garcetti said. “In other words, last week was almost 40% more cases than this week. It’s a great sign.”

This week, the county’s capacity to test for COVID-19 reached over 18,000 people per day.

“We’ve seen that demand fall by about 15% but we’re going to keep the capacity there, just in case we ever needed to surge up,” Garcetti said.

And as of Friday, 2.15 million people in Los Angeles County — more than one out of five people — had been tested for the virus, he said. The cumulative rate of people who are testing positive is at 9.8%, according to the mayor.

Last week, the mayor said the city has convened a national group of medical experts, bioscience firms and government leaders to accelerate research into rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests. It will likely be several weeks or months before at-home testing can take place, but Garcetti said it would dramatically ramp up the city’s testing capacity.

“If we get this right, we could be doing as many as a million tests a week using paper strip testing, here in Los Angeles alone,” he said last week.

And, Garcetti announced Friday that after initially launching the L.A. Al Fresco program in May, outdoor dining permits would be extended through the end of 2020. Permit renewals would be available by Friday night, he said.

The briefing comes after the mayor authorized a utility shut off at a Hollywood Hills home Wednesday that police say held parties in violation of public health orders. Garcetti had said earlier this month that the city would be allowed to shut off L.A. Department of Water and Power services at houses, businesses and other venues hosting large gatherings during the pandemic.

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