LA County health officer: COVID-19 numbers still concerning, but improving

PASADENA, CA - MARCH 28: Paseo Colorado with signs to help prevent the spread of germs as most stores are closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic in Pasadena on Saturday, March 28, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News vi

Rising coronavirus cases and fatalities remain concerning -- with four dozen more deaths confirmed Thursday -- but there are signs Los Angeles County is beginning to turn the corner in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, according to the county's top health officer.

"At least this week, we're still seeing concerning data,'' county health officer Dr. Muntu Davis told reporters in an online briefing. "There are still high case counts, hospitalizations have exceeded 2,200 people for at least the last four days in a row and tragically people are still dying from COVID-19. But I hope this week marks a turning point, and that we'll start to see the results of our collective actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

"We're already seeing more positive data,'' he said. "Our daily positivity rate remains flat at or just below 8.5% -- again, that's a seven-day average. And while this rate is still higher than what we'd like it to be, it offers some evidence we may be returning to slowing the spread and that our efforts and sacrifices are making a difference.''

The seven-day positivity rate in the county reached as high as 11% earlier this month.

Davis warned, however, that recent numbers have been daunting, noting
that the county reported about 9,000 new cases of the virus in the first three
days of the week alone, with a majority of those infections occurring among
younger residents.

On Thursday, the county confirmed another 2,014 cases, pushing the overall total to 166,848 since the start of the pandemic.

The county also announced another 49 deaths, although two of those fatalities were reported Wednesday afternoon by health officials in Long Beach and Pasadena. A total of 4,262 people have now died as a result of the virus,
according to the county.

The county also reported that 2,210 people were hospitalized as of Thursday with the virus, excluding Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments. It was the fifth day in a row the number has exceeded
2,200. But while that number remains just shy of the record set days ago, health officials noted that the steady rise in hospitalizations seen earlier this month appears to have flattened out and may actually be starting to decrease.

Davis urged residents to continue adhering to public health orders such as practicing physical distancing and wearing face coverings in public, and said business owners must continue to meet all health protocols in their operations.

On that front, Davis reported vastly improved compliance by various business sectors, most notably restaurants, which are currently limited to outdoor-only operations. He said that one month ago, roughly 33% of restaurants that underwent inspections were failing to adhere to physical distancing requirements, and 40% were in violation of employee face-covering mandates.

But last weekend, inspectors visited 507 eateries and found 93% compliance with physical distancing rules, 96% compliance for employee face coverings and 98% compliance with customer face-covering rules.

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

Davis said L.A. Apparel's South Los Angeles manufacturing facility --which was shut down this month after 375 workers tested positive for the virus and four died -- has been allowed to reopen. The site remains the largest single outbreak identified by the county during the pandemic.

"They're ensuring their employees are trained, physically distanced, wearing face coverings and that the facility is following enhanced cleaning regimens,'' he said. "They're also now screening employees for COVID-19 symptoms, something they hadn't done before.''

According to Davis, since health orders took effect, the county has shut down 26 restaurants, one grocery store, one pool and 67 "unregulated businesses,'' including three gyms, for failing to comply.

He said that since March, health inspectors have responded to 17,808 complaints about possible health-order violations. Overall, inspectors have
visited more than 17,000 restaurants, more than 3,500 grocery stores, more than 600 swimming pools and more than 3,000 businesses that aren't issued permits by the health department.

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