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L.A. County reports 48 more coronavirus deaths, pushing California’s toll to almost 4,000

Gene Kelley, right, co-owner of Skyline Barber Shop, cuts Dan Collins' hair on Tuesday in Temecula.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County health officials announced another 48 coronavirus-related deaths Thursday — pushing the total number of fatalities statewide closer to 4,000.

More than half of the Californians who have died as a result of COVID-19, 2,241, have been in L.A. County.

Health officials also announced 1,094 new coronavirus infections, raising the county’s total to 49,774.

With California on the cusp of yet another morbid milestone amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, there were new signs Thursday of problems in the reopening of the state.

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While much of California is steadily easing portions of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order and lifting restrictions that have kept businesses, churches and schools shuttered for months, two Northern California counties have had to tap the brakes in the face of troubling virus activity.

The public health officer for remote Lassen County, in northeastern California, announced that some restrictions would be re-implemented this week after the region’s first confirmed COVID-19 cases.

That means no in-store retail shopping or dining in at restaurants for the time being, Dr. Kenneth Korver wrote in his order Tuesday. Salons will be closed, and worship services also are again prohibited.

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“While Lassen County had no COVID-19 confirmed cases for the past three months, we were fully aware of the risk that the virus could come to our community” by way of county visitors or residents who traveled outside the county, Korver said. “Unfortunately, this did happen, and we now have a serious problem. We need to contain the spread of the virus in Lassen County now.”

Overall, there have been five confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county, but the results of 222 tests were still pending Thursday morning.

Lassen is the first county to officially roll back its reopening rules since California has started allowing local governments to further relax coronavirus-related restrictions provided they meet certain metrics.

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In Sonoma County, several weeks after it began loosening restrictions on some businesses, public health officials on Wednesday announced they were halting the reopening of other services. The decision comes after a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, mostly tied to workplace transmission, said county Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase.

“We’ve also seen, over the weekend, a few more hospitalizations that make us worried that we might be seeing more COVID in our vulnerable populations,” Mase said.

Many California communities, though, are forging ahead with reopening their economies, with the hope that social distancing and other safety measures will prevent new outbreaks.

In El Dorado County, officials lifted a local nonessential travel ban on Wednesday, but emphasized that the state order still prohibits tourism to Lake Tahoe. In nearby Yolo County, officials rescinded their local “shelter-in-place” order but emphasized that county residents must still abide by state restrictions.

Newsom said Wednesday that a decision on reopening gyms and fitness centers could be coming soon, the latest announcement in a string of significant reopening news in recent days.

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Earlier this week, the governor unveiled new guidelines allowing houses of worship to resume in-person services and also announced that counties could begin to reopen hair salons and barbershops.

In another milestone, SeaWorld, Legoland and other tourist attractions in San Diego County have begun talks with local officials about a potential July 1 reopening.

Even Los Angeles County, which has long been the hotbed of California’s coronavirus outbreak, has taken significant steps toward reopening. Officials announced this week they would allow the resumption of faith-based services, in-store shopping at low-risk retail stores, drive-in movies and other recreational activities with restrictions.

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“There is a lot at stake as we continue our recovery journey,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Thursday. “More people being around one another can result in more transmission of COVID-19, more cases, and likely more hospitalizations and deaths. Individuals and institutions need to continue to do their part to slow the spread of the virus.”

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

Officials have routinely warned that, as additional businesses and services open their doors, there will probably be spikes in the number of coronavirus infections.

Some, including Newsom, have pointed to other metrics — such as a steady number of hospitalizations — as proof that the state is bending the coronavirus curve in a way that allows for a wider, but still safe, reopening.

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Even so, California this week became the fourth state to surpass 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases. New York leads with more than 300,000 cases. California also has recorded more than 3,900 deaths, far fewer than New York, which has 29,000; New Jersey, which has 11,000; and Massachusetts, which has recorded 6,400.

Health officials have stressed that preventing new outbreaks depends on people wearing masks, avoiding crowded spaces and keeping at least six feet apart.

As of Thursday, 47 of California’s 58 counties had received state approval to move further into what’s known as Stage 2 — allowing in-person dining and retail shopping to resume with modifications.

Trying to get a handle on how California is reopening and what it means for you? Our guide includes updates and tips for remaining healthy and sane.

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Some areas are still itching to move further — and faster.

Officials in Placer County, northeast of Sacramento, have petitioned the state for permission to reopen gyms, nail salons and entertainment venues, with modifications, as well as to restart youth sports and other programs.

They also are seeking to scrap the state’s recent guideline that subjects churches to a 100-person attendance limit for in-person services.

That limitation has been particularly contentious since it was announced, with some church and elected officials saying the state’s guidelines remain overly restrictive and potentially unconstitutional.

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The state’s plan will alter religious services in dramatic ways, and it’s unlikely to end the push by some churches to allow more regular worship operations.

In Orange County — which recorded its highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients to date on Wednesday — the Board of Supervisors has declared religious services “essential.”

The largely symbolic move makes clear the board’s belief that “gathering together in fellowship and worship in the faith of one’s choice is an ‘essential’ service, and we support the resumption of in-person religious assemblies,” starting this weekend.

Times staff writers Taryn Luna, Stephanie Lai and Sarah Parvini contributed to this report.


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