LOS ANGELES - Residents in Southern California braced for stricter coronavirus guidelines as a surge continues to hit the Golden State.
Los Angeles County reported 3,061 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths Sunday, bringing the county's totals to 339,560 cases and 7,269 fatalities.
The low number of deaths reflects reporting delays over the weekend, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
The high number of cases, however, is a continuing concern, coming day after the county reported 3,780 new cases for the highest number of positive cases in one day, not associated with a backlog, since mid-July.
The number of L.A. County residents hospitalized with the virus surpassed 1,000 on Sunday for the first time in months, jumping from 966 on Saturday to 1,014, with 27% in intensive care.
The department said last week that the elevated number of cases in recent days reflects increased testing across the county. Nearly 3,386,000 individuals have been tested as of Sunday, with 9% of all people testing positive.
Younger people continue to drive the increase in community transmission in the county, with more than 74% of Saturday's new cases coming from people under the age of 50.
Residents between the ages of 30 and 49 years old have the highest percentage of new cases at 34%, followed by residents between 18 and 29, comprising 27% of all new cases.
Los Angeles County remains mired in the most restrictive purple tier of California's four-tier coronavirus monitoring system, placing severe limits on businesses and public gatherings.
Based on the surge in cases in recent weeks, the county will be staying in that purple tier indefinitely and officials were reportedly considering a curfew.
According to the LA Times:
"Amid the increase, the county Department of Public Health is expected to propose a set of recommendations for the Board of Supervisors this week."
“Potential options could be instituting a curfew so businesses do not have to completely close down again, but are more limited to essential activities,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said Sunday in a statement", the LA Times reported.
Ventura and Orange counties are in the red tier but could revert back to the purple tier.
The rise in cases complicates planning for increasing the numbers of students returning to schools, further re-opening additional business sectors and permitting additional activities.
"Many younger people are out socializing with non-household members, raising concerns that asymptomatic young people are helping to spread the virus to more vulnerable people at a time when cases are surging dangerously in the county," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
"While the effect of the coronavirus on younger people may not be significantly associated with deaths, younger people definitely act as a transmission connector to individuals at a higher risk.
Spread among family members and at worksites will also increase considerably as we see more and more cases among our younger residents," she continued.
"During this time of surging cases, in order to protect those most vulnerable, we ask that everyone, whether you are indoors and outdoors, keep face coverings on and stay 6 feet away from those who are older and those who have underlying health conditions. We do not want to bear witness to increased deaths among more of our beloved residents."
The state on Friday issued a travel advisory urging residents to avoid non-essential travel. It also recommends that people traveling into California -- whether they are visitors or returning residents -- from another state or country to self-quarantine for 14 days.
Los Angeles County health officials have a similar recommendation on the books, urging residents to travel out of state to quarantine upon their return.
The travel warnings come two weeks in advance of Thanksgiving, which has health officials on edge, fearing that gatherings of families and friends from multiple households could become super-spreader events.
Ferrer told reporters Thursday that residents need to celebrate the holiday in a way that is respective of the pandemic.
She said residents should stay at home for the holiday, and if they do gather with other people, the events need to be restricted to three households and be held outdoors for a limited time, with face coverings and social distancing.
Ferrer warned Thursday that unless there is a reversal of the sudden surge in cases, the county may be forced to impose more restrictions on businesses and public activity.
She didn't elaborate on what those moves might entail, but they could potentially involve more capacity restrictions on indoor retail activity, limits on outdoor dining, possible closure of some types of businesses and a slowing or halt in allowing select students to return to in-person instruction.
"If collectively we fail to stop the acceleration of new cases, we will have no choice but to look at additional actions," Ferrer said Thursday.
"All around the country, elected officials and public health leaders are introducing new requirements to protect health care systems from becoming overwhelmed.We've been there before, just four months ago, and we worked really hard to get ourselves back to a place where our health was protected and our recovery journey could continue, and I know none of us wants to step back," she said.
"Which leaves us with one option, and that is to make good choices that reflect the reality of living during a pandemic," Ferrer added.