Los Angeles County could delay the easing of local coronavirus restrictions in light of the increase in new cases, health officials have warned.
“We are at a critical moment in our COVID-19 recovery journey,” Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said in a statement on Saturday. “With increased contact among non-household members, there are many more opportunities for transmission of COVID-19, particularly if public directives are not followed, and the data is now showing concerning trends.”
She added that “if we can’t find it in us to follow these mandates, including wearing face coverings and distancing when around others, we jeopardise our ability to move forward on the recovery journey.”
Los Angeles County, which accounts for more than one-quarter of California’s population and is the largest county in the US by population, has been reporting sizeable increases in COVID-19 cases and hospitalisations. The 7-day average of daily new cases surpassed 1,900 as of Saturday, far above the 1,379 average two weeks ago.
The number of daily hospitalisations has grown from 1,350-1,450 in recent weeks to 1,698, while the cumulative positivity rate – a key indicator of community spread – has surged from 5.8 percent two weeks ago to 8.6 percent, according to the county’s department of public health.
There were 23 new virus-related deaths and 2,169 new cases logged in the county as of Saturday. The new figures brought the county’s totals to 3,285 deaths and 95,371 cases. This compares with 5,872 deaths and 206,433 positive tests across California, which appeared to have the situation reasonably under control a few weeks ago.
The new spike is believed to be caused by state authorities expanding the testing capacity and local governments relaxing stay-at-home orders and other social distancing guidelines.
Last week, LA County allowed the latest round of businesses to reopen, including bars, wineries, breweries, and tattoo parlours. The most recent easing of restrictions on business activity came around three weeks after the flare-up of mass street protests over the in-custody death of George Floyd and other black Americans.