Los Angeles County’s health department announced Sunday that the number of residents being hospitalized for COVID-19 each day has dropped over the past week, possibly signaling that actions to slow the spread of the virus are “beginning to have an impact.”
“We are hopeful that collective actions taken over the past couple of weeks have allowed us to get back to the work of slowing the spread,” county Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
The good news comes nearly three weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered several businesses to halt indoor operations to curb the spread of the virus. But it’s no reason to return to business-as-usual right away, according to the health director.
“It is important to keep in mind that we will need to continue with all the modifications and sacrifices for weeks to come,” Ferrer said. “This is especially true if we want to see our schools re-open for classroom instruction.”
On Sunday, hospitals in the county together had 1,856 people with COVID-19 being treated for the respiratory illness, 31% of them in intensive care units and 18% on ventilators.
Hospitalization numbers spiked in mid-June and the county saw a record number of COVID-19 patients flood into hospitals, with more than 2,000 people being treated in hospitals each day for the virus.
The numbers appeared to have stopped climbing last week, when officials on Wednesday noted a “very gradual downturn” in the number of new hospitalizations, but Ferrer said it remains to be seen whether the county will be able to sustain the trend over the coming weeks.
Department of Health Services director Christina Ghaly at the time said that the slight downturn in the number of new hospitalizations pushed projections to now predict an “ongoing slight decline in cases over the next four weeks.”
She said though the news is encouraging, it highlights the need for continued caution.
L.A. County recorded 1,476 new coronavirus cases and 23 new deaths Sunday, bringing the countywide total to 192,167 with 4,692 deaths. The county usually counts fewer cases on weekends due to some labs only reporting on weekdays.
Of all the county’s cases, 60% are among people between the ages of 18 and 49 years old, a younger age group that has been driving up the county’s infection numbers in recent weeks — in contrast to the beginning of the pandemic in L.A. County, when older residents accounted for a larger percentage of the infections.
From the new cases reported Sunday, 68% were among people under the age of 50, and of the 23 new deaths reported, three were between the ages of 30 and 49 years old and one was between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, according to the health department.
“With increased contact among non-household members, there are many more opportunities for transmission of COVID-19, particularly when public health directives are not followed,” Ferrer said.
After a spike in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations that followed the reopening of many sectors, Newsom in mid-July required all Southern California counties to close indoor activities at fitness centers, places of worship, offices for non-critical sectors, personal care services, such as hair salons and barbershops, and indoor malls.
Bars were ordered to close all operations.
Still, businesses like garment factories, meatpacking plants and food processing centers allowed to operate continue to experience some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the county, according to health officials.
And gatherings still happening throughout the county are another concern, according to L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, who on Thursday warned pointed to events hosted by faith organizations that don’t follow health protocols meant to curb the spread of the virus as a particular worry.
Even with stricter requirements in place, the county’s complaint line receives about 2,000 to 3,000 complaints a week about businesses not following coronavirus safety rules, according to Davis.
“If we can’t find it in us to follow these mandates, including wearing face coverings, distancing when around others, and not having or attending gatherings with non-household members, we jeopardize our ability to move forward on our recovery journey,” Ferrer said.