As Los Angeles County COVID-19 cases continue to decline, public health officials said Wednesday the county might meet the criteria needed for the “red” tier of reopening as early as next week.
L.A. County remains in the most-restrictive “purple” tier, with the seven-day average number of cases just slightly above the number of cases to move into the next tier, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Department of Public Health.
As of Wednesday, Los Angeles County has a seven-day average of 7.2 cases per 100,000 residents, barely above the required 7 cases per 100,000 residents, Ferrer said.
“It is very possible we will enter the red tier as early as next week,” she added.
The seven-day average positivity rate for Los Angeles County is 3.5%, which is already below what is needed for the “red” tier.
A third metric also must be met for larger counties, the health equity quartile, to ensure that the test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods do not significantly lag behind its overall county test positivity rate.
In Los Angeles County, the equity testing rate is 5.1%, just below the required 8% to move into the red tier.
When the county meets that case average, the number must stay below the guidelines for two weeks for additional schools and businesses to reopen.
Middle and high schools can open for grades 7-12 once the county is in the red tier and the campuses also implement the school reopening guidelines.
Ferrer said Wednesday it is “very likely” these grades could be allowed to reopen in the coming weeks.
Students from kindergarten to sixth grade were just recently allowed to return for in-person learning, once L.A. County met the required case requirement.
The threshold for grades 7-12 to return is seven cases per 100,000 residents, with L.A. County remaining above that guideline as of Wednesday.
In addition to schools, more businesses are allowed to reopen in the red tier.
Gyms and fitness centers can open indoors with 10% maximum capacity, according to the guidance.
Movie theatres are also allowed to open indoors with 25% maximum capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer.
Museums, zoos and aquariums can also reopen in the red tier at 25% capacity. The current purple tier allows these businesses to operate outdoors.
Indoor dining can be allowed under the next tier, however, all of these changes are subject to the approval of the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
On Wednesday, 116 additional deaths and 1,759 COVID-19 cases were reported in L.A. County, according to Ferrer.
The total number of deaths is now 21,669 and the cumulative number of COVID-19 cases has reached 1,195,913, according to Public Health.
There are about 1,500 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, compared to an average of 800 in the fall, according to the public health director.
A total of 27 cases of the United Kingdom (U.K.) variant have been identified and one case of the Brazil variant confirmed last week, according to Ferrer.
The California variant is “widely spreading” in Los Angeles County, with 239 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, Ferrer said.
On Monday, additional essential workers, including teachers, first responders and those in the food and agriculture industry, became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Los Angeles County.
Public health officials estimate more than 547,000 people are working in the food and agriculture sector and are expected to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, 668,000 people in the childcare and education sector and 154,000 law enforcement and emergency responders in L.A. County.
COVID-19 vaccine remains limited in L.A. County, according to public health officials.
For information about vaccine appointments in L.A. County, visit here.
L.A. County Sees Increase In COVID-19 Cases Among Staff, Residents At Nursing Facilities
Los Angeles County is now experiencing an increase in cases among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, public health officials said Tuesday.
The rise is in part due to the highly transmissible Delta variant and a small number of post-vaccination infections among those fully vaccinated, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
Currently, 86% of residents and 85% of staff at skilled nursing facilities are fully vaccinated. For the week ending July 18, 33 people tested positive for COVID-19: six new cases among residents, and 27 new cases among staff.
For the previous weeks, an average of 22 new cases were reported among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities.
Masks have consistently been required in all healthcare settings, including skilled nursing facilities, regardless of vaccination status. Routine testing of staff and residents is also required at skilled nursing facilities, and there are stringent infection control directives, according to the department.
On Tuesday, Public Health confirmed 2,293 new cases of COVID-19. To date, the department has identified 1,307,970 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 24,704 deaths.
There are 1,138 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 22% of these people are in the ICU. This is an increase of 313 daily hospitalizations since last Tuesday.
“Residents at skilled nursing facilities are often medically fragile and throughout this pandemic have been at great risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19. Thankfully, because of their high COVID-19 vaccination rates and infection control measures at facilities, we are not seeing dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, nor have we seen significant increases in deaths,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in a statement. “In order to ensure a continued high level of protection during this surge, staff and residents not yet vaccinated should do so. And we ask everyone who plans to visit someone in a skilled nursing facility to mask up and be fully vaccinated to prevent transmission to very vulnerable residents.”
Anyone 12 and older living or working in L.A. County can get vaccinated against COVID-19. For more information, visit here.
California To Require State, Health Care Workers To Show Proof Of Vaccination Or Testing
All California state employees, as well as workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings, must show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, Governor Newsom announced Monday.
The new policy for state workers will take effect on Aug. 2 and testing will be phased in over the next few weeks. The new policy for health care workers and congregate facilities is set to take effect on Aug. 9, and health care facilities will have until Aug. 23 to come into full compliance.
Unvaccinated workers will be subject to at least weekly COVID-19 testing and will be required to wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE). This requirement also applies to high-risk congregate settings, including senior residential facilities, homeless shelters and jails.
“We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant,” said Newsom in a statement. “As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example and requiring all state and health care workers to show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly, and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same.”
Despite California leading the nation in vaccinations, with more than 44 million doses administered and 75% of the eligible population has received at least one dose, the state is seeing increasing numbers of people who refused to get the vaccine being admitted to the ICU and dying.
“The Delta variant is up to 60% more infectious than the Alpha strain but many times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain. If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the time,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly in a statement.
As of last week, California’s statewide case rate more than quadrupled from a low in May of 1.9 cases per 100,000 residents a day to at least 9.5 cases per 100,000.
The vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated, with 600% higher case rates among the unvaccinated than for those who are vaccinated, according to the state.
Los Angeles County COVID-19 Cases Increase 80% In One Week
Los Angeles County continues to see a rapid rise in COVID-19 transmission countywide with cases doubling over the last 10 days as the Delta variant spreads.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 2,767 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday an 80% increase over last week, according to the department.
On Friday, 3,058 additional cases were reported, marking the third day in a row with more than 2,500 cases reported in a day, according to Public Health.
The County’s daily average case rate, with a 7-day lag, is now 12.9 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from last week’s rate of 7.1 cases per 100,000.
There are 645 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 22% of these people are in the ICU. Last week, there were 406 people hospitalized with COVID-19 illness.
“Public Health has detailed the rise of the Delta variant among strains sequenced in the Los Angeles County area for weeks,” department officials said. “While emerging data affirms that fully vaccinated people are well protected from severe infections with Delta variants, people with only one vaccine are not as well-protected, and there is increasing evidence that a small number of fully vaccinated individuals can become infected and may be able to infect others.”
From July 11 to July 17, the number of sequenced Delta variants was 201, 84% of all sequences collected that week.
This is consistent with the rise of Delta nationwide: earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that Delta strains accounted for 83% of circulating COVID-19. Given that about 4 million residents in L.A. County are not yet vaccinated, the risk of increased spread of this variant within L.A. County remains high, according to Public Health.
As of July 18, more than 10,845,531 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 6,013,569 were first doses and 4,831,962 were second doses.
88% of L.A. County seniors 65 and over, 70% of residents 16 and over, and 69% of residents 12 and over have received one dose of a vaccine including 39% of L.A. County teens between the ages of 12 and 17.
Of the nearly 10.3 million L.A. County residents, including those who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, 52% are fully vaccinated and 59% have received at least one dose.
“As more people have gotten vaccinated, the proportion of total cases that are among those vaccinated has also increased,” public health officials said. “This is to be expected because as more people are vaccinated, the number of fully vaccinated people becoming infected will increase.”
In June, fully vaccinated people represented 20% of all cases diagnosed among L.A. County residents, while unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people accounted for 80% of cases.
Public Health estimates if the 52% of County residents that are fully vaccinated were not vaccinated, the number of new cases would perhaps be double because everyone would instead have the same risk of infection as unvaccinated people do. While County numbers have been going up, they would be much higher if there weren’t as many people fully vaccinated.
In Los Angeles County, everyone 2 years of age and older must wear a mask in all indoor public places, regardless of their vaccination status.
“While the County does not require masking at private gatherings where unvaccinated or immunocompromised people are present, universal masking in these scenarios, particularly indoors, is the best way to protect everyone,” department officials said.
To find a vaccination site in Los Angeles County, visit here.
Note: This story has been updated with new case data from the Department of Public Health.