LA County hospitalizations at lowest point in 4 months

Coronavirus hospitalizations in California’s most populous county have slipped below 1,000 for the first time in nearly four months, officials reported Saturday, as case rates also remain low and much of the state prepares for some restrictions to be lifted in the coming days.

The number of patients with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County hospitals hit 979, the lowest since Nov. 23, the county health department said.

There are 3,250 people hospitalized statewide, a drop of more than 85% since peaking around 22,000 in early January, the state Department of Public Health reported Saturday.

RELATED: Three Southern California counties move to less restrictive 'red tier'

"We have made good progress and have more progress to make," LA County health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "We urge everyone to use caution and good judgment in these next critical weeks and months to avoid surges in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths like we saw at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021. Don’t let your guard down."

She asked people to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.

State officials announced Friday that 13 counties would be eligible to open restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and museums at limited capacity on Sunday. The easing of restrictions are a result of the state hitting a 2 million equity metric aimed at getting more vaccines into low-income communities.

The counties eligible to reopen include Contra Costa and Sonoma in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. San Bernardino and Orange said they would do so Sunday, although LA County officials said they would wait until Monday.

RELATED: Orange County to reopen more businesses beginning Sunday

Another 13 counties are expected to reopen Wednesday under a different metric. Those include San Diego, Sacramento, Riverside and Ventura.

The hard-hit counties of Kern and Fresno in the central valley remain in the most restrictive tier.

On Monday, the state is opening up vaccinations to an estimated 4.4 million people ages 16 to 64 with disabilities and certain health conditions, including severe obesity, type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease at stage 4 or above and Down syndrome.

The state is also expanding eligibility to transit workers and residents and workers of homeless shelters, jails and detention centers. They join teachers, food and agriculture workers, health care employees and seniors 65 and older in being eligible for vaccine.

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