Los Angeles County health officials confirmed another 1,401 COVID-19 cases Friday, the highest daily total recorded in the past two weeks, further fueling concerns of a post-Labor Day surge, but hospitalization numbers were still holding steady.
Health officials have been fearing a rise in cases similar to those seen after the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, when quarantine-weary residents took advantage of newly opened businesses and flocked to beaches and gatherings.
The county reported four consecutive days of 1,000-plus new cases last week, and again for three straight days this week, culminating in Friday’s two-week high.
“We have seen slight increases in new cases and are paying attention to our case, hospitalization and death numbers to understand recent community transmission of COVID-19,” public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Data through this upcoming weekend will inform our understanding of the impact of Labor Day holiday actions. This information will inform decisions on re-opening.”
Local nail salons have been awaiting word from the county on whether they can resume indoor operations. The state has cleared the business to reopen, but the county has kept them closed, pending word on a possible post-Labor Day increase that health officials fear might be exacerbated by further reopenings.
The sudden surge in cases could also threaten the county’s ability to move out of the most restrictive tier of the state’s coronavirus economic-reopening roadmap. What had been declining case numbers put the county on the verge of moving from the restrictive “purple” tier to the less-onerous “red” tier, which would allow more businesses to reopen, including movie theaters.
But one of the metrics used by the state to rate counties’ efforts to slow the spread of the virus is the number of new daily cases per 100,000 residents — a figure now rising in L.A. County.
As of Friday, 760 people were hospitalized due to the virus in Los Angeles County, a slight uptick from Thursday, but still well below the average 2,200 numbers seen in the weeks after the Fourth of July.
A sudden rise in hospitalizations would likely lead to an eventual increase in deaths, health officials have said.
The 1,401 cases announced by the county, along with 34 reported by health officials in Long Beach and five by Pasadena increased the cumulative countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 265,814.
The county reported another 34 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, although three of those deaths were actually reported Thursday by officials in Long Beach. Long Beach added two more fatalities Friday. The countywide death toll due to the pandemic stood at 6,490 as of Friday afternoon.
The county on Friday also announced four more cases of the COVID-related childhood malady known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. The four news cases lifted the county’s overall total number of cases to 38 — none of which have been fatal.
The syndrome is considered rare, and is characterized by inflammation of various organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin and eyes.
County health officials confirmed this week that more than 70 citations have been issued over the past month to various businesses and organizations — most notably churches and gyms — for violating health restrictions imposed to control spread of COVID-19, although no closures have been ordered.
Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County’s health officer, said Thursday that failures to adhere to the restrictions, particularly those barring many indoor business operations and worship services, can exacerbate the spread of the virus.
“Not just for us in terms of public health but others who are watching and monitoring the spread of this virus and trying to do everything we can to control it, it is concerning when we don’t have compliance with the measures that are needed in order to slow the spread of this within our county,” Davis said in an online media briefing Thursday.
“As we go through, we continue to look at all options that might be available to us,” he said. “Of course, I can’t go into a lot of details on each case, but (we) continue to try to build what we need to in terms of getting compliance from everyone. This is really what’s needed at this point. Everybody has to do what they need to do in order to slow it down.”
According to figures posted on the county Department of Public Health website, 71 citations were issued “due to lack of compliance with Health Officer Orders” between Aug. 29 and Sunday.
Several businesses were cited multiple times over that period, including a Coast Fitness facility in Hawthorne, which was cited at least four times; various locations of Crunch Fitness, including those in Cerritos, La Mirada and Lancaster; and Powerhouse Gym in Torrance, which was cited at least five times.
Multiple churches are also on the list, including Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, which the county took to court, obtaining an injunction to bar the facility from holding indoor worship services. According to the county, the church has been cited three times since the court order was issued on Sept. 10.
On Wednesday, the county reported a disturbing increase in the local virus transmission rate — the average number of people a coronavirus patient infects with the illness. That number had been steadily declining, dropping below the critical threshold of 1.0, but on Wednesday, it rose to 1.02.
Health officials have said that keeping the transmission rate below 1 is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.