After a two-month shutdown due to surging COVID-19 cases, patio dining returned to Los Angeles County Friday but with a new restriction forcing restaurants to turn off or remove all televisions from customer seating areas — a clear effort to prevent gatherings of sports fans.
The county’s revised Health Officer Order also reinstates previous restrictions on outdoor dining, requiring servers to wear masks and face shields, limiting restaurants to 50% of patio capacity, limiting tables to no more than six people and requiring tables to be at least eight feet apart.
But the order also states: “Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off. This provision is effective until further notice.”
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer earlier this week noted concerns about the upcoming Super Bowl leading to gatherings of sports fans, and she noted earlier issued with people gathering at private parties and restaurants to watch Dodger World Series and Lakers NBA Championship games.
“We know that Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, and we can’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Ferrer said. “It will be tragic if the Super Bowl becomes a super-spreader of coronavirus.”
The order limits table seating to six people, and “all people seated at a table should be members of the same household.”
The order encourages, but does not mandate, seating to be done by advance reservation. It urges restaurants to notify customers “to call in advance to confirm outdoor seating/serving capacity, where possible.”
Restaurants also must collect contact information from customers in case there’s a future need to reach out in contact-tracing efforts.
The new Health Officer Order also lifts the previous requirement that non-essential retail businesses be closed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
On Monday, following the lifting of the state’s regional stay-at-home order, the county immediately cleared personal-service businesses such as barber shops and nail salons to reopen, albeit with strict infection-control requirements.
Restaurants reopened for outdoor service earlier this week in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.
Daily COVID-19 infection numbers have been trending downward over the past two weeks, following a surge that saw the county regularly reporting well over 10,000 cases.
On Thursday, the Department of Public Health announced another 6,592 new COVID infections, while Long Beach added 414 and Pasadena 56, increasing the overall number since the pandemic began to 1,098,411.
Hospitalization numbers also continued a downward trend. According to state figures, there were 5,855 people hospitalized due to COVID in the county as of Thursday, including 1,503 in intensive care. That marks a dramatic drop from the 8,000-plus patients reported earlier in January.
However, the county also reported another 213 deaths on Thursday, though 18 of those fatalities were actually announced Wednesday by health officials in Long Beach and Pasadena. Long Beach added 15 more deaths Thursday afternoon, while Pasadena reported five more.
The new deaths pushed the overall death toll to 16,127 as the region experiences the inevitable end result of a surge in infections that continues to fill hospital intensive-care units.
Health officials have warned that daily deaths will likely remain high for the rest of the month, even as case numbers and hospital admissions continue to fall. Deaths are considered a lagging indicator, meaning they naturally follow increases in hospitalizations, and early January saw daily hospital populations top 8,000.
While the case numbers have improved, they still remain dramatically high. Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s health services director, noted this week that while new COVID hospital admissions have dropped to about 500 per day from the recent high of about 700 per day, the current rate is still double that seen in the virus surge that occurred last summer.
Ferrer on Thursday reiterated her call for residents and business owners to strictly adhere to all infection-control measures, particularly as more businesses open and more people interact in public.
“To continue to drive down transmission, we all must commit to taking the actions that work to slow COVID-19 spread,” Ferrer said in a statement. “When more sectors re-open the risk of COVID-19 transmission increases, because people are interacting more with non-household members. In order to avoid re-openings resulting in increases in cases, businesses and individuals need to be more diligent, not less, in following public health measures.
The county’s COVID-19 transmission rate — reflecting the average number of people a COVID patient infects with the virus — also continues to decline, estimated Wednesday at 0.85, down from 0.94 last week. Keeping that number below 1.0 is considered critical to slowing the spread of the virus.
Ferrer said allocations of COVID-19 vaccine continue to lag behind demand, with the county expecting to receive roughly 188,000 doses next week. Many of those, however, will be needed to administer second shots to people who have already received the first dose of the two-dose regimen.
As of the end of last week, the county had received a total of 853,650 doses. It received an estimated 143,900 doses this week, pushing the total to nearly 1 million.
Vaccination appointments can be booked online at vaccinatelacounty.com or by calling 833-530-0473 between 8 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., but appointments at county sites are largely filled through the weekend.
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.