Los Angeles County cases are slowing down while more businesses open
LOS ANGELES, CA — The easing of shutdown orders in Los Angeles County got off to a rocky start with health officials identifying beachgoers flouting mask and social distancing rules and hundreds of businesses opening without adhering to health restrictions, according to county health officials.
Still, Los Angeles County’s coronavirus cases appear to be leveling, providing hope that the easing of restrictions can continue. On Monday, the county Department of Public Health announced 21 more deaths due to the coronavirus, bringing the countrywide death toll to 1,842.
The county also reported another 492 cases, pushing the number of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic to 38,466.
Though the numbers of new cases and deaths tend to be lower on Mondays due to the reduced availability of testing and results over the weekend, the infection rate has slowed in recent days.
In mid-March, infected people in Los Angeles County were spreading to an average of 3½ other people. But that rate had dropped to just one other person by this month, according to the county health department. At that rate, new cases may stay roughly the same rather than tripping in a short amount of time. Health officials will be watching closely to see if the reopenings drive the infection rate up again.
“Over the weekend, our inspectors visited over 1,600 businesses, and we found that over 1,000 businesses were not yet in compliance with the Safer At Home directives,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said. “We worked with all of the businesses so they could implement these measures and we want to thank them for following the orders and keeping their employees and their customers as safe as possible.”
She noted that with more amenities open, it was likely that more than 1 million people left their homes over the weekend, and with an estimated countywide infection rate of about 4%, as many as 40,000 of those people could have been infected with COVID-19, regardless of whether they were showing any symptoms.
“So you can see why we do stand here every day and we tell you why it’s so important for us to continue to slow the spread,” Ferrer said. “As more and more people are about, it’s very easy to have a scenario where there are more infections. And having more infections results in overwhelming the health care system. But I do know that if we do our part, if we are able to keep our distance if we use our face coverings when we’re around other people, it made a difference before and it will make a difference as we move through the future.”
Last week, the county relaxed some of its health restrictions, authorizing most retail businesses in the county to reopen with curbside pickup only and restrictions on face coverings and social distancing. More recreational amenities — such as tennis courts and equestrian centers — were also allowed to reopen.
The county’s beaches reopened last Wednesday for active use only, attracting large crowds in some locations — notably Malibu — as people took advantage of the first weekend of permissible coastline activity in two months.