Bartenders over the weekend began mixing drinks, gyms turned on elliptical machines and nail salons began polishing away as Los Angeles County reopened more of its economy even as coronavirus cases continued to rise.
The county, a hotbed of COVID-19 in California, now has reported more than 3,000 deaths and 80,000 confirmed cases. The rising case numbers have sparked some worry about whether the economy is reopening too quickly and that easing stay-at-home orders could cause new outbreaks.
But health officials continue to discount those concerns, saying total new cases is not the best measure of community spread because of aggressive levels of new testing. They point to other metrics they say show that the local outbreak has stabilized — even though the number of new cases increased by nearly 20,000 in the last two weeks and by more than 3,600 just over the weekend.
Newport Beach police enforce closures along the Wedge in Newport Beach, a popular surf spot. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)
Spectators along the Wedge in Newport Beach, a surf spot, on July 4. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)
A bicyclist rides along Highland Avenue with the pier closed to beachgoers on July 3 in Manhattan Beach. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)
Peter Gratzinger of Pacific Palisades heads to the water at Santa Monica State Beach, which opened to the public at 5 a.m. July 6. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)
A bicyclist with her child rides along the closed bike path on July 3 in Manhattan Beach. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)
A police officer and a lifeguard boat comb the shoreline in Venice Beach on July 5. Even though the beach was closed over the weekend a few still made their way to the shoreline. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
No-parking signs from the July 4 weekend still block spots on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica on Monday. (Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)
Dusk sets in over the the Santa Monica Pier on Friday. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
Southern California residents watch the fireworks during the Drive-Up 4th of July Spectacular at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base on Saturday in Los Alamitos. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
Bella Nousiainen, left, with daughter, Helmi Nousiainen, of Los Angeles, at the Santa Monica Pier, which reopens after being closed to guests for months because of the coronavirus. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)
Dr. Jamie Taylor checks the ventilators at the refashioned St. Vincent Hospital. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)
Shoppers and mannequins wear protective masks in the Los Angeles downtown garment district on Thursday. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
Patrons wear face coverings at Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. A recent surge in COVID-19 cases in California has pushed the state’s total past 200,000 with more than 5,800 deaths. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)
LAPD officers E. Rosales, left, and D. Castro, patrol the Metro Red Line at the Hollywood/Highland Metro Station Thursday. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)
Visitors wear protective masks while walking through historic Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
People wait in line to have a COVID-19 screening administered by the Community Organized Relief Effort at the Los Angeles City Mayor’s test site at Dodger Stadium on Thursday. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)
A woman adjusts a protective mask while walkiing along Atlantic Avenue in Long Beach. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Ti mes)
Cameron Johnson,18, left, headed to UC Berkeley in the fall and Simona Krasnegor,17, headed to UCLA in the fall, watched the sun set while sitting next to the Manhattan Beach Pier, following their drive-through graduation from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
Jair Guido, 36, a veterinarian visiting from Durango, Mexico, right, wearing a sombrero with an American flag draped over his shoulders, walks with other pedestrians along Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. Guido said that he wore this outfit to show people that he is proud to be a Mexican and that he loves America. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
A mask-wearing skateboarder and her dog make their way along the boardwalk in Venice Beach. Californians must wear face masks in public under a coronavirus order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Pedestrians, some with face coverings, some without, walk past musicians Brent Kendell, background left, and Sam Jones, background right, as they perform at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
People wear masks while walking along the boardwalk in Venice Beach. Californians must wear face masks in public under a coronavirus order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Pedestrians cross the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Hollywood. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public, following growing concerns that an increase in coronavirus cases has been caused by residents failing to voluntarily take that precaution. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Sophia Strauss, left, and Sarah Hoffmeister celebrate after their drive-through graduation from Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
New West Charter School vice principal Mark Herrera shouts at graduate Joe Reid to come and receive his diploma during a drive-up graduation ceremony for the Class of 2020 at the charter school in Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
A worker directs drivers at a drive-up testing site for COVID-19 outside of Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA.
(Genaro Molina/Los Angeles Times)
Destiny VanSciner is tested for COVID-19 with an oral swab by family nurse practitioner Anniesatu Newland at a walk-in site at St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Melissa Gomes fixes the tassel on the mortarboard of Sarah Anggraini as the new graduate gets ready for a photo at Chaffey College, which held a drive-through graduation, in Rancho Cucamonga. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Maricela Moreno, manager at El Tarasco in Marina del Rey, disinfects cash at the restaurant. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
Mildred “Millie” Stratton waves to a caravan of cars led by Alhambra police officers and firefighters. The parade past her home celebrated Stratton’s 102nd birthday. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Eric Larkin hands an order to Brittany Wright as she fastens her face covering outside the Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles. (Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)
A jogger passes Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles as local stay-at-home orders are increasingly relaxed months into the coronavirus outbreak. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Hikers and bikers traverse the Santa Fe Dam trail as county parks officially reopen to the public. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A woman, masked against COVID-19, walks past a building that features the image of Britney Spears at a shopping center in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Manon Guijarro, a new graduate of Pierce College, has her photo taken by friend Paige Johnson at Chris Burden’s outdoor work “Urban Light” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Los Angeles. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Mary Perez, a salesperson at High Class Jewels on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, helps a customer as he tries on a gold rope chain inside the recently reopened store. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)
Professional dog walker Lindsay Rojas takes golden retrievers Gomez, left, and Nikki for a stroll along Le Bourget Avenue in Culver City. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
The Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team banks over downtown Los Angeles in formation to salute healthcare workers and first responders on May 15. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Maria Morales, center, a member of the USC class of 2020, participates in virtual graduation via Zoom with her brother Manny Morales, left, mom Pilar Morales and stepdad Victor Ramos from her home in Orange. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
On a recent day, there’s not a face mask in sight as a roller skater and others share the reopened walking path on the Strand in Manhattan Beach. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
Crew members of a Hainan Airlines flight walk through the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)
A woman wearing a protective mask walks past a shuttered business in Long Beach. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
Thousands of rental cars are stored at Dodger Stadium as the coronavirus crisis has caused rentals to nosedive. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Some beachgoers actively use the beach while others relax on the sand, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s active-use-only order, in Huntington Beach. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)
Traveling nurse Gail Cunningham waves thanks outside the emergency room entrance to Riverside University Health System in Moreno Valley as residents pay tribute to her and other medical personnel with a drive-by rally. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times)
A scene from “Knives Out,” with actor Don Johnson, seen at the Mission Tiki Drive-in Theatre in Montclair. Opened with one screen in 1956, the Mission Tiki expanded to four screens in 1975 and began renovation in 2006, updating to FM transmitters and digital projectors. (Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)
Two key indicators — the positivity rate and average number of daily hospitalizations — have continued to remain relatively steady, while average daily deaths have declined, L.A. officials said. It is always possible these numbers could start going up, either from spread from reopening businesses, from recent protests over the police killing of George Floyd or other reasons. Officials said they are monitoring the metrics closely and could impose new restrictions if needed.
“The most important data continues to be looking at our death data and our hospitalization data and our rate of positivity, and ... all of the indicators really point to the fact that we are fairly stable and that we in fact continue to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s health director, said Friday.
As of Sunday, there were 1,426 confirmed coronavirus patients in county hospitals, with 29% in intensive care and 21% on ventilators. That was a slight increase from the day before, when there were 1,406 patients. The average daily number of hospitalizations has been decreasing since late April, Ferrer said Friday, although she did note there has been a slight increase over the past three days. That could be because most hospitals are now testing all patients for COVID-19, even those who are being treated for unrelated issues, she said.
Nearly 945,000 people in the county have been tested for the virus and have received their results, with about 8% testing positive, officials said. That rate has remained steady for the past several weeks.
The seven-day average of daily deaths has also been trending downward since April 12, Ferrer said. The average reached its highest peak in early May, when 45 to 46 people were dying each day. In early June, the rate had slowed to 20 to 30 deaths a day, she said. The seven-day average stood at 28 on Friday, according to the Department of Public Health dashboard that tracks reopening metrics.
That came two days after both the county and the state recorded their largest single-day totals of new coronavirus infections. California reported 4,291 new cases Wednesday, with 2,129 of them in L.A. County. Health officials said the total was fueled by a backlog of test results that accounted for roughly 600 of the new L.A. County infections.
A Times data analysis found that hospitalizations remain flat statewide, but they are inching up in some areas including Ventura County, Orange County and parts of the Central Valley.
Orange County on Sunday reported its highest one-day total of new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row.
Public health officials recorded 434 new cases Sunday, which was preceded by 412 cases Saturday. Previously, the county reported a high of 297 new cases on June 14.
With the increases, the total number of cases reported by Orange County reached 10,422. Two more deaths were reported Sunday, bringing the total to 269 countywide.
As the number of cases has ticked upward, testing has also increased, with the county performing an average of 3,800 per day as of Thursday, compared with 2,200 tests per day in early May.
Still, the seven-day average number of daily hospitalizations has also been rising steadily, from 202 in early May to 319 on Friday. According to a Los Angeles Times analysis, Orange County also experienced a 76% jump in ICU hospitalizations in the last six weeks.
As of Sunday, a total of 332 COVID-19 patients were in county hospitals, with 133 in intensive care. That was a slight drop from Tuesday, when county hospitals saw a high of 345 COVID-19 patients.
Los Angeles County public health officials on Sunday reported 1,784 new cases of the coronavirus and 11 related deaths.
The county now has recorded more than 83,000 cases of the virus and over 3,120 deaths.
The continued rise in new cases came amid the first weekend of more business sectors reopening, as bars, card rooms and some personal care services were given the green light to resume operations Friday, provided they take certain precautions.
They include ensuring that customers practice physical distancing and wear face coverings.
“These are the actions that allow us to continue our recovery journey, and these actions will be essential to ensure that we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system and see increased numbers of deaths from COVID-19,” Ferrer said Sunday in a statement.