Decline in Infection Rate May Mean Reduction in COVID-19 Restrictions in L.A. County

Downward trends in coronavirus cases and testing-positivity rates could allow Los Angeles County to move into the next tier of the state’s economic-reopening matrix by sometime in October, the public health director said Wednesday, but pending Labor Day numbers could potentially thwart that move. 

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.

But public health director Barbara Ferrer said numbers in all categories have been trending downward over the past six weeks, following a spike seen after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“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.

Health officials have said repeatedly they will not consider any more business re-openings in the county until at least late September, after determining if virus cases and hospitalizations increase following the Labor Day holiday weekend — the way they did after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

If the county gets its average new case numbers below seven per 100,000 residents, and maintains that level for two weeks, the county will be able to move into the state’s “red” tier. That would allow more businesses to reopen, including potentially movie theaters and gyms, as well as school campuses for in-person learning.

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. “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.”

She and the county’s health services director, Dr. Christina Ghaly, urged people to get a flu shot, noting that as flu season arrives, people who contract both influenza and COVID-19 may be susceptible to severe illness.

The county on Wednesday reported 31 coronavirus-related deaths, although one of those fatalities was actually announced Tuesday by health officials in Long Beach. Long Beach announced two additional deaths Wednesday afternoon. The total number of fatalities in the county stood at 6,305 as of Wednesday.

The county also announced 1,148 newly confirmed cases, while Long Beach added 40 cases and Pasadena reported six, lifting the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 256,194.

There were 804 people hospitalized due to COVID-19 in the county, up slightly from Tuesday. Ghaly noted that the sharp downward trend seen in hospitalizations over the past month appears to have slowed or leveled off. But hospitalization numbers till remained at dramatically lower levels than they were a month ago.

Ghaly said overall testing numbers over the past week were down, thanks in part due to closures of some testing centers due to poor air quality caused by the region’s wildfires. She said some testing sites have two-thirds of their appointment slots available, so she encouraged anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus or who thinks they may have been exposed to get tested.

As of today, the number of confirmed infections in West Hollywood has increased by 4 to a total of 535. The number of people in West Hollywood who have died of COVID-19 related illnesses remains at five.

In Beverly Hills, the number of confirmed has increased by five to 654. The number of COVID-19 related deaths in Beverly Hills remains at 12. The number of COVID-19 infection confirmed among Culver City residents also has increased by one to a total of 377. The number of deaths remains at 29. The Health Department reports three newly confirmed infections in Hollywood, bringing its total to 1,142. The number of deaths remains at 14. The Melrose neighborhood has eight new confirmed infections, bringing its total to date to 1,837. The number of COVID-19 related deaths remains at 70.

Public Health has a dedicated call line for confirmed cases of COVID-19. If you are positive for COVID-19 and have not yet connected with a public health specialist or need more information on services, call toll-free at 1 (833) 540-0473. Residents who do not have COVID-19 can continue to call 211 for resources or more information.

One way the virus can be transmitted is through a cough, a sneeze or even through air that comes from the mouth when someone talks. For that reason, residents must wear face coverings when out in public and can be cited for not doing so. The citations come with a $250 fine and a $50 administrative fee.

West Hollywood residents with questions about the COVID-19 pandemic or who are looking for resources to deal with it can find answers on the City of West Hollywood’swebsite. Here is a list of links to sections about particular subjects and issues:

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
RENTERS RESOURCES
RESIDENT RESOURCES
UTILITY ASSISTANCE
SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES
LABOR AND WORKFORCE RESOURCES
OLDER ADULT RESOURCES
FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN
LOS ANGELES COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH ORDER
TESTING INFORMATION
HOW TO HELP
NEWS AND UPDATES
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)