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L.A. County continues to report decline in coronavirus cases but officials urge caution at events

A healthcare worker waves his hand as he calls up the next person in line at a COVID-19 testing site
A healthcare worker waves his hand as he calls up the next person in line at a COVID-19 testing site operated by CORE in Los Angeles on Jan. 4.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)
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Los Angeles County health officials Saturday reported that the recent surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant was abating but urged people to continue to take precautions, especially in light of upcoming events that could further spread the virus.

The county recorded 21,709 coronavirus cases Saturday, a 45% decline from a week ago when there were 39,117 cases, the public health department said in a news release.

The daily positivity rate also fell below 10% for the first time since Dec. 23, and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 dipped below 4,000 for the first time since Jan. 12, officials said. There were 3,998 COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Friday, a decline of nearly 10% from two weeks before, when there were 4,386.

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The county reported 73 new deaths Saturday, bringing the total number of people who have died from the pandemic in L.A. County to more than 28,800. Weekly average deaths have increased by nearly 161% over the past 14 days, according to the Los Angeles Times coronavirus tracker. That follows a nationwide trend, with the daily American death toll higher than during last fall’s Delta wave, and deaths are expected to keep rising for days or weeks.

The decline in most metrics comes as numerous family gatherings and community events are scheduled to mark the Lunar New Year this coming week. And the L.A. Rams will play the San Francisco 49ers at SoFi Stadium in Sunday’s NFC Championship game with a trip to the Super Bowl — scheduled in Inglewood two weeks later — on the line.

“With multiple opportunities for gathering and celebrating in the coming days, including cheering on the LA Rams, following sensible safety measures will allow us to continue our recent decline,” Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director, said in a statement. “For residents who are at high-risk, including those older, immunocompromised, or with underlying health conditions, gatherings can be especially risky given the still high rates of transmission.”

People who plan on gathering should get tested before getting together with others, move activities outdoors if possible and wear a mask when indoors or in crowded places, she said. People should not host or go to gatherings if they are sick, the public health department added.

The county also reported a number of active outbreaks at jails, prisons and other correctional and law enforcement settings, with 9,948 residents infected, as well as 3,509 staffers. Forty people have died, according to the public health department’s website.

They included L.A.’s Twin Towers Correctional Facility, which recorded 3,598 cases among residents, 948 among staff and seven deaths; North County Correctional Facility in Castaic, which recorded 1,729 cases among residents, 204 among staff and three deaths; California State Prison, Lancaster, which recorded 1,591 cases among residents, 441 among staff and 14 deaths; and Men’s Central Jail, which recorded 1,263 cases among residents, 447 among staff and 12 deaths.

The surge comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom and the correctional officers union have continued to appeal a federal judge’s order that all employees should be vaccinated to protect the rights and health of those serving prison sentences.

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L.A. County’s public health department reported an additional 405 active outbreaks at workplaces, food and retail stores that have infected a combined total of at least 10,000 workers but said no deaths have yet been linked to them.

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

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