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L.A. County reports 1,339 new coronavirus cases, 27 deaths

Melanie Olmeda
Melanie Olmeda and her son Mason Gutierrez, 6, who are zoo members, drove from Chino for the reopening of the L.A. Zoo on Wednesday.
(Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials Saturday reported 1,339 new cases of the coronavirus and 27 related deaths, but said hospitalizations continue to decline.

The county now has recorded a total of 239,828 cases of the virus, and 5,763 related deaths.

There were 1,089 confirmed coronavirus patients in county hospitals as of Friday, with 32% in intensive care. That represented a decline of about 50% from mid-July, when hospitalizations reached 2,200 officials said.

Still, the county must slow its transmission rate considerably in order for more businesses to reopen and activities to resume. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a new four-tier system that requires counties to show consistent success in stemming the transmission of the coronavirus before allowing businesses greater flexibility to reopen.

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Los Angeles and most other counties in Southern California were placed in the most restrictive category, Tier 1, which means that transmission of the virus is widespread and most nonessential businesses must be closed. In order to move into a less restrictive tier, a county must have no more than seven new cases per 100,000 people per day and a test positivity rate of 8% or less. The county must meet those benchmarks for two consecutive weeks before progressing.

For the week ending Aug. 18, L.A. County reported a daily average of 12.7 cases per 100,000 residents and a test positivity rate of 5%, according to the state.

“To demonstrate reduced spread of the virus and move to Tier 2, we need to reduce our transmission rate to seven new cases a day per 100,000 residents,” Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said in a statement.

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“The evidence is very clear seven months into the pandemic that to see fewer cases, we have to all work together and not infect each other: we do this by wearing our face coverings when we are out of our homes, avoiding gatherings and crowded spaces, getting tested if we are sick or have been exposed, and following sensible public health directives at every worksite.”

In announcing the new four-tier system, the state revised the list of activities permissible in counties categorized as Tier 1 to include indoor services at barbershops and hair salons, as well as shopping malls. But L.A. County’s local health officer order still doesn’t allow for those businesses to reopen, officials said.

In Orange County, public health officials said hair salons and barbershops could reopen Monday, provided they follow guidelines issued by the state.

The county, which has also been placed in Tier 1 of the state’s new system, reported 408 new cases of the virus Saturday and 19 deaths, bringing its total to 48,190 cases and 975 deaths.

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For the week ending Aug. 18, Orange County recorded a daily average of six new cases per 100,000 residents and a positivity rate of 5.2%, according to the state.

The majority of California school districts are located in counties with widespread transmission rates and are unable to open under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-tier system. Elementary schools are still able to seek waivers with county approval.

Last Sunday, the county was removed from the state’s coronavirus monitoring list, which previously determined in which locations businesses could reopen. But the county hadn’t yet been off the list for two weeks, as was required for additional reopenings, when Newsom announced the new system.

Now, officials are trying to determine how long Orange County must meet the state’s new benchmarks before it can move into Tier 2 and permit more activities to resume, including in-person instruction at schools.

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“We’ve requested additional clarification from State re: schools as there are several counties, including #OC, who are in limbo as we were part way thru prior 14 day cycle to re-open,” the OC Health Care Agency tweeted Saturday. “State indicated we would get credit for those days. More to come.”


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