Recent rise in COVID-19 cases threatens to slow L.A. reopening, mayor says

People walk along Santee Alley in downtown Los Angeles
People walk along Santee Alley in downtown Los Angeles. L.A. County can only enter a new tier on the state’s color-coded reopening blueprint if the positivity rate and number of COVID-19 cases remain low.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

With recent increases of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County after nearly a month of decline, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the next few weeks will be crucial if the city wants to see more reopenings.

“The bottom line: This virus is still here, and it’s still very dangerous,” said Garcetti, noting the uptick in hospitalizations, cases and the transmission rate in L.A. County.

If the positivity rate and the number of COVID-19 cases remain low, the county will be able to enter a new tier on the state’s color-coded reopening blueprint, Garcetti said, which means fewer restrictions.


Los Angeles County is in Tier 1, which means schools and many businesses are closed. To progress through the tiered system, a county must meet certain thresholds for two consecutive weeks.

The mayor urged Angelenos to try to keep numbers low so the county can move into the new tier in early October.

If there is no post-Labor Day spike in COVID-19 cases and downward trends continue, L.A. County may move into a less restrictive tier in October.

Sept. 17, 2020

Garcetti also said he supports the county’s decision to keep nail salons closed for the time being. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that that health officials are in discussion with the Board of Supervisors to determine when such reopenings may take place.

As the county continues to reopen, Garcetti said he hopes “we will prioritize our youngest and most vulnerable children, getting them back to safe learning environments as our highest priority.”

In recent weeks, officials have reported a decline in the number of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths. The county’s daily case count is currently seven cases per 100,000, and the seven-day average positivity rate is 3% — a notable drop from a reported 8% in July.

But over the last week, the number of cases has increased slightly, and the projected transmission rate has crept past 1% to 1.02%. It’s possible those numbers are early indicators that there will be a spike in infections related to Labor Day weekend activity, but Ferrer said officials are monitoring data through the end of the week to determine that assessment.


“This is a crucial week for us,” she said Wednesday.

There have been 18% more deaths in Los Angeles County this year than over the same time period in the last three years. Ferrer said Wednesday that although not every death in 2020 has been related to COVID-19, the spike translates to “thousands of deaths that would not have otherwise occurred” without the virus.

The data disproves theories that the virus is no more serious than influenza, she said.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 6,000 people in L.A. County. Officials announced 31 additional deaths Wednesday and 1,265 cases, totaling more than 260,200 confirmed infections.