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California coronavirus milestone: 100,000 cases. ‘It hasn’t ended’

A person directs traffic at a drive-through coronavirus testing site at Dodger Stadium.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

The number of coronavirus infections in California surpassed 100,000 Wednesday, marking a milestone that comes as the state is rapidly reopening its economy.

California is the fourth state to surpass 100,000 confirmed cases. New York leads with more than 300,000 cases. California has recorded more than 3,800 deaths, far fewer than New York, which has 29,000; New Jersey, which has 11,000; or Massachusetts, which has recorded 6,400.

The rising cases don’t necessarily mean outbreaks are spreading. California has dramatically increased testing, which some officials credit for the rise in confirmed cases.

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Gov. Gavin Newsom’s move this week to resume salon services, under a county-by-county approach, adds to a growing list of activities — including in-person shopping and eating at restaurants — that he has permitted at a regional or statewide level over the last month.

With cases on track to nearly double in May, the governor has pointed to steady numbers in hospitalizations and other metrics as proof that the state is bending the curve. But he cautioned that reopening doesn’t mean the threat of the virus is gone.

At Eaton Canyon, a popular Pasadena hiking area, so many people crowded the trail Saturday morning — many without masks and jammed close together — that rangers shut it down for the rest of the month.

“The reality is, this has just begun,” Newsom said. “It hasn’t ended. And while we are moving forward because of stabilization, because of the good work that’s been done by health officials all across this nation, all across the state of California, specifically, to suppress the spread of this virus, by no stretch of the imagination is this virus behind us.”

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Even with the positive developments, Newsom warned, “that doesn’t mean this thing is behind us and that we’re out of the woods yet.”

The state recorded 3,215 new coronavirus infections Tuesday — the most reported in a single day since the onset of the pandemic, and a spike that officials attribute to a lag in reporting over the holiday weekend.

About 57% of those new cases were reported in Los Angeles County, which has struggled in recent months as the setting for an outsize number of infections and deaths statewide. L.A. County health officials also reached a new daily record Tuesday, reporting 1,852 new cases of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, L.A. County health officials reported 933 new cases of COVID-19, pushing the region’s total number of infections to 48,700. The county also reported 53 new virus-related fatalities, bringing its death toll to 2,195.

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The increase in cases comes as large swaths of California begin moving into the third stage of reopening.

As part of this phase, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced this week that barbershops and hair salons would be allowed to reopen in 47 of California’s 58 counties.

Malls? Movie theaters? Hair salons? Here’s a look at which L.A. County businesses can now open and which ones are still closed.

Los Angeles County is one of the 11 counties not yet allowed to move into the third stage of reopening. However, county officials plan to submit a variance application that, if approved by the state, would let more of the economy reopen. Officials have not yet publicly provided all of the data that would be included in the application.

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L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the decline in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations as well as the county’s rate of infection per 100,000 people signal to her that the region is ready to move ahead with reopening, albeit with regulations.

The county already has begun to allow faith-based services, in-store shopping at low-risk retail stores, drive-in movies and other recreational activities to resume.

“There is a lot at stake as we reopen,” Ferrer said. “More people being around one another can result in more transmission of COVID-19, which is more cases and likely more hospitalizations and deaths. This is why it couldn’t be more important for us to take care of each other when we’re out of our homes.”

The Northern California county is asking for “specific flexibility to reopen for tourism no later than June 1.”

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Memorial Day weekend provided a major test of the loosened restrictions as summery temperatures sent large swaths of people outdoors, many for the first time in weeks.

While some areas did not report any problems, Pasadena’s Eaton Canyon was closed for the rest of the month because of overcrowding.

At Venice Beach, visitors— many of whom were not wearing face coverings or adhering to social distancing practices — packed the boardwalk. Officials said a failure to follow rules, including the prohibition of sunbathing and other public health violations, has been an ongoing problem.

“This is another big milestone for L.A. County as, step by step, we begin safely reopening our communities and economy,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a prepared statement. “But reopening does not mean going back to business as usual. As long as community members follow safety rules, we can continue to make more progress.”

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Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.


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