LOS ANGELES (CNS/KTTV) - Los Angeles County has finally met the criteria to gain a red tier status, according to new COVID-19 data released Tuesday.
According to the latest numbers from the Los Angeles County Public Health, the county reports 70 new deaths and 1,337 new COVID-19 cases. The new numbers bring up a total of 1,205,276 positive cases and bring up the virus' death toll to 22,099 across the county, which is currently in a highly-restrictive purple tier.
With the gradual decrease in new coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County has begun to meet the state threshold to move up to the less-restrictive red tier. Now, the county must keep the daily case rate at or under 7 new cases per 100,000 residents and the county's test positivity rate can't exceed 8% for two consecutive weeks.
The new numbers come just minutes after the state revealed that several Northern California counties -- Alameda, Solano and Santa Cruz -- moved up from purple to red tier. Both Los Angeles and Orange counties remained in the purple tier, despite gradual decreases in new cases for both cases. While none of the five FOX 11 viewing area counties -- LA, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura -- got out of the purple tier, Imperial County got bumped up to red tier on Tuesday.
WHAT IT MEANS TO MOVE UP TO 'RED TIER'
Moving from the restrictive "purple" tier into the "red" tier will authorize the county to increase capacity limits at retail establishments and reopen indoor dining, fitness centers and movie theaters. However, the county is not bound by the state guidelines and could continue to impose stricter rules.
For instance, while the county currently allows outdoor dining in the "purple" tier, it still forbids restaurants from turning on television sets on their patios, as a way of preventing gatherings of sports fans. The state has no such restriction on restaurants.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that while the county is fully committed to implementing one key element of the "red" tier -- the reopening of in-person classes for students in grades 7 through 12 - - she would only say health officials are in discussions with the Board of Supervisors about other business reopenings. And she again insisted that in-person dining at restaurants presents a high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
"We are working with the Board of Supervisors and all of our sectors to plan for what will be a sensible and safe reopening as permitted by the state, but as appropriate for our county," Ferrer said. "And we'll be sure to share that information not only with all of you but really importantly with all of the sectors in a very timely way later this week."
She said the county is working "to make a reasonable plan for how to move forward."
While discussing possible reopenings under the "red" tier, however, Ferrer pointed to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that specifically discussed the danger of COVID spread posed by "on-site dining at restaurants." The county has been reticent at times during the pandemic to allow on-site dining -- indoors or outdoors -- leading to lawsuits filed by individual restaurants and the California Restaurant Association.
"As we plan to move into the 'red' tier, where additional reopenings will be permitted, we're looking closely at the science to understand what practices can help reduce community transmission of COVID-19," Ferrer said.
According to Ferrer, the CDC study evaluated government policies in more than 3,000 counties and their impact on COVID case and death rates.
"The study found that allowing on-site dining at restaurants is associated with significant increases in case growth rates ... after reopening, and increases in death rates 60 to 100 days after restrictions had been lifted," Ferrer said.
She added: "Allowing on-premises restaurant dining was associated with increases in county-level case and death rates, and that's something that we'll need to take into account as we begin more reopenings in our restaurants. Mask mandates and prohibiting on-premises dining at restaurants have been shown ... to limit potential exposures to the virus, and that resulted in less community transmission."
FOX 11's KJ Hiramoto contributed to City News Service's report.