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Los Angeles County tops 22,000 COVID-19 deaths

Mayor Eric Garcetti , right, and Gov. Gavin Newsom tour the  Dodger Stadium vaccination site
Mayor Eric Garcetti , right, and Gov. Gavin Newsom tour the Dodger Stadium vaccination site in January.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials Saturday reported 1,823 new coronavirus cases and 98 related deaths, and noted that more than 22,000 residents have now died from the virus.

“Today’s grim milestone reminds us of the human toll of this pandemic and how actions affect cases, hospitalizations and deaths several weeks from now,” Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director, said in a statement. Deaths are a lagging indicator of the pandemic, reflecting exposures to the virus that occurred four or five weeks before.

“As we move into spring and temperatures in Los Angeles County warm up, many people will be out taking advantage of our beautiful county,” Ferrer said. “I ask you do so responsibly by avoiding large gatherings and crowds, always wearing your mask, and at this time, postponing non-essential travel.”

The county also reported 16 more cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MISC-C, a serious but relatively rare inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19 that has sickened 116 children in L.A. County, with one child dying.

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Though the number of daily deaths remains relatively high, hospitalizations, which tend to reflect exposures that took place three to four weeks before, continue to fall. There were 1,176 COVID-19 patients in L.A. County hospitals as of Friday, a drop of more than 50% from two weeks before, when there were 2,213 patients.

Orange County has reported similar declines, recording 269 cases and 98 related deaths Saturday, bringing its totals to 247,641 cases and 4,173 deaths. The county said the number of deaths would be higher than normal over the next couple of days as it works to clear a backlog created by a technical problem. There were 321 COVID-19 patients in Orange County hospitals as of Friday, a drop of nearly 46% from two weeks before.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County officials said Friday that they hope to receive 312,000 doses of vaccine this week, a significant increase from past allocations, and use 62% for first shots. Those eligible include healthcare workers, people 65 and older and essential workers in education, child care, emergency services and food and agriculture.

As of Friday, L.A. County had administered 2,420,130 doses of vaccine, representing about 23,966 doses per 100,000 residents, and Orange County had administered 819,249 doses, or about 25,891 per 100,000 residents, according to The Times’ vaccine tracker.

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Amid the backdrop of declining case numbers and an increasing supply of vaccine, the state on Friday unveiled new guidance that will permit California theme parks and sports stadiums to open as early as April 1.

Amusement parks will be permitted to reopen with restrictions in counties that have exited the strictest purple tier of the state’s four-phase reopening plan.

Outdoor sports — with fans — and live performances will be allowed to resume with restrictions in counties in all four tiers of the reopening plan. Capacity will be limited to 100 people in counties in the strictest tier.

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Most of Southern California, including Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, remains in the purple tier but is expected to enter the red tier soon. The timing depends in part on when California can administer 400,000 more vaccinations to people living in the state’s lowest-income areas, which will trigger a broad relaxation of the reopening criteria.

Even when meeting the state’s threshold, counties have the authority to impose stricter limits than those authorized by the state.

L.A. County officials have said it’s too soon to say if they’ll adhere to the state’s new relaxed rules because they’re still reviewing the particulars but that they intend to align as closely as possible with them.

Times staff writers Luke Money, Rong-Gong Lin II and Hugo Martín contributed to this report.


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