LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County's daily rate of new COVID-19 cases fell low enough -- barely -- Tuesday to qualify for a move to the least restrictive yellow tier of the state's economic-reopening blueprint, but the county must meet the threshold for another week before it can actually advance.
For now, the county remains in the orange tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs restrictions on businesses and other activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to statistics released by the state every Tuesday, the county's adjusted seven-day average rate of daily new COVID-19 infections fell to 1.9 per 100,000 residents. Moving to the yellow tier requires a rate of less than 2 per 100,000.
If the county keeps the rate below 2 for another week, it will officially advance to the yellow tier. The state requires counties to meet all thresholds for two consecutive weeks before advancing to a less-restrictive tier in the blueprint.
The county has met the other thresholds required for moving to the yellow tier for several weeks -- its seven day average testing-positivity rate is now 0.9%, and the positivity rate in low-income, hard-hit communities is 1.0%.
Moving to the yellow tier would mean further easing of capacity restrictions at businesses, gatherings and events, both indoors and outdoors. Fitness centers, cardrooms, wineries and breweries, for instance, would be permitted to increase indoor capacity to 50%, up from the current 25%; bars would be able to open indoors at 25% of capacity; outdoor venues such as Dodger Stadium could increase capacity to 67%, up from the current 33%; and amusement parks could allow 35% of capacity, up from 25%.
As of Tuesday, only four of the state's 58 counties were in the yellow tier -- Alpine, Mendocino, Sierra and Lassen.
The bulk of the state, including all of Southern California, is in the orange tier.
Los Angeles County on Monday reported four more COVID-19 deaths, noting that statistics are often artificially low on Mondays due to delays in reporting from the weekend. Pasadena health officials reported one new fatality. The new deaths lifted the overall total from throughout the pandemic to 23,778.
Another 288 cases were reported by the county, while Pasadena announced five more cases and Long Beach added 27, lifting the cumulative total since the pandemic began to 1,231,838.
According to state figures, there were 408 people hospitalized in the county as of Tuesday, down from 411 on Monday, with 110 people in intensive care, up from 102 people Monday.
The county is continuing to offer appointment-free, walk-up COVID vaccinations at all of its large-scale sites through Thursday. The appointment-free shots, contingent on supply, are available at:
- Palmdale Oasis Recreation Center, 3850 E. Avenue S;
- The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood;
- Balboa Sports Complex, 17015 Burbank Blvd., Encino;
- College of the Canyons, 25000 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita;
- Cal State Northridge, 18343 Plummer St.;
- Eugene Obregon Park, 4021 E. First St., Los Angeles;
- Pomona Fairplex, 2370 E. Arrow Highway, gate 15; and
- L.A. County Office of Education, 12830 Columbia Way, Downey.
Doses are available for anyone age 16 and over, although teens age 16 and 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
Health officials said Monday that nearly 278,000 people in the county may be overdue for their second dose of the vaccine, possibly due to concerns about side effects or a belief that one shot is enough.
As of last week, more than 4.4 million people in the county have received at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 2.6 million had received a second dose, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
But county figures showed 277,902 people were considered overdue for their second dose.
"There are many reasons why this number might be showing up," Ferrer said. "One is that some of these doses are actually second doses for people who received first dose outside of L.A. County. Another is that people have simply forgotten to get their second dose. Some people may have been put off by side effects of their first dose or feel that one dose is as effective as they need and is going to be enough protection."
She urged people due for their second shot to get it, stressing that while one dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines does offer some protection, it's not complete. She said the county is also seeing continued declines in hospitalizations among residents 65 and older and in the severity of cases in people that are hospitalized, demonstrating the effectiveness of the shots.
"Getting everyone fully vaccinated, which means two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine if that's the vaccination you received, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the best hope for seeing these positive trends spread even more widely across all our communities. The flu-like symptoms that many people have for a very short while after vaccination are signs your immune system is working.
"And while one dose does offer some protection, it is not as strong a level of protection as what two doses offer," Ferrer said. "So if you're overdue for your second dose, come back to us and let's together spread better health throughout the county."
Ferrer said that in many cases, the county has contact information for people who have not returned for a second dose, and will be conducting outreach.
"Unfortunately, we don't have that information for everybody," she said.