Reductions Have Plateaued in L.A. County
At the L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, October 13, County Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer provided an update and noted that COVID-19 numbers have largely plateaued in the County. Based on data aggregated for the State’s Blueprint, L.A. County remains in Tier 1, the most restrictive tier.
Dr. Ferrer also engaged with the Supervisors about ways to continue to drive down L.A. County’s numbers. Dr. Ferrer noted that what is driving the County’s numbers is in large part gatherings outside of individual households that are “not essential” and not contributing to economic activity, and that greater success in curtailing such gatherings will help us move toward Tier 2 and potential reopening of additional economic sectors. She did also indicate that the County has seen a slight increase in workplace outbreaks, which the Department of Public Health is monitoring closely.
At a briefing on Wednesday, October 14, 2020, County Health Director Dr. Christina Ghaly presented on the hospital demand model and noted that the number of new patient hospitalizations appeared to be increasing slightly.
Dr. Ghaly noted that the County’s estimated transition rate (R) is now projected to be above 1, at 1.05. This means that the number of new cases is projected to rise. She indicated that it is more likely that the number of new cases and subsequent new hospitalizations will likely increase. The model projects that the current number of hospital beds and ventilators is expected to be adequate over the next four weeks. Dr. Ghaly also urged everyone who wants to get tested to do so, and announced that testing criteria have been relaxed so that anyone can get tested and there are thousands of testing appointments available.
At the City’s briefing, also on Wednesday, October 14, Mayor Eric Garcetti observed that the County’s seven-day average is now 1,116 new cases per day, a 3% increase since last week, and the seven-day positivity rate has risen from 2.8% to 3.2% in recent weeks.
Reopening Additional Sectors and Ongoing Enforcement
As of Wednesday, October 7, County inspectors had conducted 7,547 site visits and found overall compliance with required safety protocols averaging above 85%. In the same time period, County inspectors have issued 131 citations for noncompliance.
At the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, October 13, Dr. Ferrer told the Board that County inspectors have monitored hundreds of the businesses that have recently been permitted to reopen and saw high compliance. In particular, she noted that two of the County’s seven cardrooms had issues with mask usage and complying with the state’s requirements for what constitutes “outdoor” operations. Dr. Ferrer said that she expected both cardrooms to come into full compliance after reinspection, by October 16.
On Wednesday, October 14, the County released updated guidance on private gatherings, and gatherings are now permitted for up to three households, as long as safety precautions are observed. This is in line with newly announced state rules. Dr. Ferrer recommended that gatherings with additional households be restricted to the same households as much as possible to create a “quasi-bubble.” She added that a household does not include group living situations such as dormitories, fraternities, sororities, residential care facilities or commercial group living arrangements such as boarding houses, hotels or motels.
As of Wednesday, October 14, the County had received 62 applications for waivers to allow schools in grades TK-2nd to reopen for in-person education, although only a few were fully complete and able to be processed; the County is conferring with the state on those applications. In addition, 837 schools with close to 18,000 students and almost 11,000 staff have reopened for high-needs students—72% are public schools, 15% are charter schools and 13% are private schools. The county has conducted 336 site visits, with more scheduled, and 88% had high compliance scores. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl asked that the Department of Public Health report back on lessons learned from this limited reopening for high-needs students. Currently, there are no reported COVID-19 cases in students and only a “handful” among staff. No school has three or more cases.