LA County's COVID-19 cases continue climbing

County officials continued to report "significant increases" in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and the testing positivity rate on Saturday, announcing another 2,169 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths.  

The new numbers bring the county's totals to 95,371 cases and 3,285 fatalities.  

According the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the 7-day average of daily new cases is over 1,900, an increase from the 1,379 average two weeks ago. There are 1,698 people currently hospitalized, which is higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen in recent weeks.  

And, with test results now available for more than one million individuals, 9% are testing positive. The cumulative positivity rate has increased from 8% to 9%, and the 7-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% two weeks ago to 8.6%.  

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"So many people in our community are experiencing loss and sorrow during this pandemic. We think of you every day, and are deeply sorry for your loss," said Barbara Ferrer, the county's director of public health. "We are at a critical moment in our COVID-19 recovery journey.

Over the last few weeks, businesses and public spaces have reopened, and many more people have been out and around others. With increased contact among non-household members, there are many more opportunities for transmission of COVID-19, particularly if public health directives are not followed, and the data is now showing concerning trends.  

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"We're safer in the community only if we follow the very specific directives issued by public health," she continued "Our collective responsibility is to take immediate action, as individuals and businesses, to reverse the trends we are experiencing.

The health officer orders and public health directives provide us with the available strategies to slow the spread. If we can't find it in us to follow these mandates, including wearing face-coverings and distancing when around others, we jeopardize our ability to move forward on the recovery journey."  

Officials also warned the public about reports of phony mask exemption cards that depict a government seal with threatening language.  

"Everyone, except children under the age of 2, should wear a face-covering securely over their nose and mouth any time they leave the house and keep six feet apart from others not in your household when out and about," a health department statement said.

"People with medical conditions that prevent safe use of a face covering are asked to wear a face shield. Accurate information will always be distributed officially by Public Health through official channels in the form of a press release, on the Public Health website, and through social media accounts @lapublichealth."  

While the average number of daily deaths from the virus has been dropping, the number of daily new cases is on the rise.

According to the county, the seven-day average number of new cases was 1,979 as of Friday, up from 1,379 just two weeks ago.  

Some officials have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but Ferrer said repeatedly in recent days that the higher numbers, combined with rising levels of hospital visits and positivity rates, clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  

Health officials said Friday the rise in cases hitting the county's younger population particularly hard -- likely reflecting reopenings of bars and restaurants and participation in this month's mass demonstrations against police brutality.  

Ferrer said Thursday that residents and business owners -- most notably bars and restaurants -- have a joint responsibility to adhere to health requirements and protocols. She noted that over the three recent weekends after restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for dine-in service, county inspectors visited more than 3,700 establishments, and 83% of them were found not to be in full compliance with county protocols for reopening.  

Ferrer said that over the past two months, the largest percentage of complaints the Department of Public Health received about restaurants and other businesses were violations of the requirement that safety protocols be publicly posted at each establishment and distributed to employees.

The second most common complaint was people not wearing face coverings.   "Business owners, we ask that you too do your part," Ferrer said Thursday. "Our guidelines are not suggestions. They are mandates.

If you see someone in your business that's not wearing a face covering, take action. If you see large groups of people congregating in your business, question whether those folks truly came from the same household, and take action. Ask them to step away from each other.  

"I know this is difficult. It's summer, restaurants, and bars are open and things seem like they're back to normal, but they're not. The virus is deadly. The virus remains in our community and if we don't collectively take the necessary steps to be safe we'll continue to see people we love get sick, be hospitalized, and potentially die."  

Ninety-four percent of the county's 3,285 coronavirus deaths occurredin people with underlying health conditions.