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L.A. County marks 30,000 dead from COVID-19

Small memorial flags on the Griffith Observatory lawn
Flags memorialize Los Angeles victims of COVID-19 at Griffith Observatory in November 2021.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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Los Angeles County has marked its 30,000th death related to COVID-19.

The milestone came on Wednesday, when 102 deaths were reported, the second-highest daily death toll recorded in 11 months. There have now been five days since late January when daily death tolls have reached triple digits.

Daily death tallies are still high and have yet to begin a sustained drop, even as daily coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have started to decline. Over the past several weeks, L.A. County has been averaging 63 to 73 COVID-19 deaths a day, according to a Times analysis of county data.

“Sadly, many residents continue to lose their lives to this dangerous virus. Our hope is that as we drive case and hospitalization numbers lower, deaths will decline,” the county Department of Public Health said in a statement.

“I send my heartfelt condolences to everyone mourning the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

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Many health experts are strongly recommending the public still wear masks even as the state lifted its order requiring them to be worn in indoor public spaces for vaccinated people.

Feb. 16, 2022

The announcement came on the same day L.A. County lifted a mask requirement that applied to outdoor mega-events — such as those at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum — and outdoor spaces at K-12 schools and child-care settings.

The county’s largest school district, L.A. Unified, however, said it will retain its outdoor mask mandate for the rest of the week as it reassesses the mask order.

L.A. County remains on track to ease a universal indoor mask order for vaccinated people in about one month, Ferrer said.

“We anticipate, that with continued steep declines in case numbers indicating much lower transmission, we will be able to safely lift indoor mask mandates in mid-March. Please continue to take sensible precautions that reduce exposures so that we don’t lose ground,” Ferrer said.

According to a Times analysis of state data, L.A. County is roughly continuing a trend of seeing its daily case rate fall by half every week.

Between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1, L.A. County was averaging about 17,000 cases a day; the week after that, 9,000 cases a day were reported.

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For the most recent week, ending on Tuesday, about 4,000 cases a day were reported.

Those trends suggest L.A. County will record roughly 2,000 cases a day next week, and 1,000 cases a day during the following week.

That would put the county on track to reach its goal of under 730 cases a day by early March or so.

Ferrer has set a goal to stay under 730 cases a day for at least a week before lifting the indoor mask order for vaccinated people in most public settings.

That’s consistent with criteria by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend mask wearing in indoor public spaces for everyone when case rates are 50 or more a week for every 100,000 residents.

L.A. County has opted to retain a universal indoor mask order for, likely, a few more weeks, along with a couple of other local governments, like Palm Springs and Santa Clara and Mendocino counties.

Most other counties in California no longer had a universal indoor mask mandate as of Wednesday, including San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, and much of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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California state officials lifted a two-month-old statewide mask wearing requirement on Wednesday at 12:01 a.m., allowing vaccinated people to be maskless in indoor public settings, while requiring unvaccinated people to remain masked in settings like stores, theaters, and restaurants when not eating or drinking.

The state has still ordered that masks be worn by everyone age 2 and older in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters and in indoor settings at K-12 schools and child-care settings. A federal order requires the wearing of masks while taking public transportation.

State officials expect to provide an update at the end of the month as to when indoor mask orders at K-12 can be eased.

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