Los Angeles County is moving in the right direction when it comes to lowering COVID-19 transmission, a trend that bodes well for local economies that have been decimated by the pandemic.
“We have made a lot of progress reducing transmission in L.A. County since we experienced that surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths starting in mid-July,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a news conference on Wednesday. “As we consider our future reopenings, we’re going to use the lessons we learn from our past and community transmission indicators to guide decisions regarding reopening sectors and permitting additional services.”
The Department of Public Health reported on Wednesday that the seven-day average for new cases is seven per 100,000 residents and the positive-test rate is at 2.8%. The metric thresholds are good enough to move the county from Tier 1 (widespread risk of transmission) to Tier 2 (substantial risk) in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s most recent ranking system, should the numbers hold up.
“When we move forward on our recovery journey and additional sectors reopen, it will remain important to understand how increased intermingling among non-household members affects community transmission of the virus,” Ferrer said.
Current data shows a significant improvement compared with results in April and July, when some businesses were allowed to reopen before being forced to shutter again. The positivity rate hovered around 8% in July and has declined to just under 3% in early September. Hospitalizations have also gone down as treatment for the virus has improved, according to Ferrer.
“Public Health is heartened that Los Angeles County has met the thresholds that may allow us in the near future to move into Tier 2 of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” Ferrer said in a statement on Tuesday. “We plan to closely monitor our data to understand how effectively we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 after the Labor Day holiday and the impact of reopening schools for high-need students and reopening hair salons for indoor operations.”
Whereas Tier 1 requires the closure of a large range of businesses, Tier 2 permits more kinds of reopenings, though still with restrictions — for instance, movie theaters might be able to operate with limited admissions and indoor dining at restaurants could be permitted.
Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer also was encouraged by the news and said she is eager to see businesses reopen. The city has 1,520 confirmed cases and 56 deaths, according to a Public Health report released on Thursday.
“We are happy that most people are acting responsibly by continuing to social distance and wear their masks,” Springer said. “We want the downward trend to continue so that we can reopen in a safe matter. At the same time, we are very concerned with the well-being of our businesses and will be very excited when they can all open again.”
According to Public Health, the flu season in the county typically arrives in the first week of October, and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti urged Angelenos to schedule a flu shot to enable hospitals to keep as many hospital beds open as possible.
“The flu season threatens us all,” Garcetti said in a news conference on Thursday. “It threatens to increase the number of people who are in need of medical care, leading to what experts are calling a ‘twindemic’ in which we have the flu and COVID-19 both taxing our medical personnel, our medical supplies and our medical facilities. Let’s not let that happen, and each one of us has the power to help prevent it with the most simple of acts: getting a flu vaccine.”
The United States surpassed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday, accounting for nearly 21% of COVID-19 deaths confirmed in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control reported the country’s first coronavirus case on Jan. 21.