Another three dozen coronavirus-related deaths were reported Thursday by Los Angeles County health officials, who again issued a call for people get a flu shot and continue taking precautions against the spread of infection.
The county Department of Public Health reported 38 new virus deaths, but two of those fatalities were actually announced Wednesday afternoon by health officials in Long Beach. The new deaths lifted the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 6,324.
Another 1,160 cases were also announced by the county, while Long Beach added 68 cases and Pasadena health officials reported four. The cumulative total stood at 257,343 as of Wednesday.
A total of 780 people were hospitalized due to the virus, down from 804 on Wednesday.
Health officials issued another call for residents to be immunized against the flu, noting that thousands of people nationally are hospitalized every year due to influenza, and with the coronavirus pandemic continuing, hospitals could easily become overwhelmed.
Public health director Barbara Ferrer urged residents to continue taking all basic precautions to avoid becoming ill.
“As many residents are spending more time indoors to avoid the poor air quality, I remind everyone to take precautions to minimize COVID-19 spread if you are indoors with others,” she said in a statement. “Please remember to distance from other people, wear a face covering and wash your hands frequently and to clean high-touch surfaces often if around others who are at high risk. It is important to continue to isolate from others if you are sick and to get tested for COVID-19 if you were exposed or have symptoms.”
Ferrer said Wednesday that downward trends in the county’s coronavirus case and testing-positivity rates could allow the county to move into the next tier of the state’s economic-reopening matrix by sometime in October.
The county is in the most restrictive, or “purple,” level of the state’s four-tier virus-tracking roadmap. The county already has a low enough seven-day average testing positivity rate — around 3.2% — to move to a less-restrictive tier, but average new case numbers are still too high, currently averaging 8.1 cases per 100,000 residents. The state threshold for advancing to the “red” tier is seven cases per 100,000.
“If we don’t see a surge in cases and hospitalizations associated with activities over Labor Day and we continue to reduce our rate of community transmission over the weeks ahead, we could enter tier 2, which is a less restrictive tier, sometime in October,” Ferrer said.
Ferrer said the county is now seeing its lowest average testing-positivity rate of the pandemic.
“Last week, we saw the lowest positivity rate to date, at around 3.4%,” she said Wednesday. “This means that almost 97% of the tests that people took for COVID-19 ended up being negative. Just a month ago, in mid-August, this rate was around 5%. So we’re happy to see the progress that we’ve made and we’re very much hoping that this number continues to decrease.”
She again warned, however, that the impact of the Labor Day holiday weekend has yet to be borne out in case numbers, since the virus has a 14-day incubation period. She also said upcoming fall and winter holidays, including the start of Rosh Hashanah this weekend, could lead to setbacks if people become lax about social distancing and other preventive measures.
“The autumn and winter months are filled with special times that we all are looking forward to,” she said. “There’s many secular and religious holidays that we usually celebrate by spending time with our friends and extended family members. And the pandemic has been difficult and frustrating in many ways, including placing limits on how we can celebrate safely. I do encourage all of us to think now about how we might want to modify our plans so we can share the joy of the holidays while reducing the risk of transmitting a dangerous and sometimes deadly virus.”