While California's COVID-19 cases, deaths are on the rise, LA County's numbers appear stable

Los Angeles County health officials said that while the state's coronavirus cases and death have been on the rise in recent weeks, the county appears to have begun to somewhat level out, according to figures released Monday.

County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, said that early in the pandemic, Los Angeles County made up more than 50% of coronavirus cases in California. Now it's less than 37%, she said.

"Deaths remain stable at an average of about 37 people passing away --again, a high number and our hearts go out to everyone -- for the past two weeks," Ferrer said. "And although the data around daily cases is complicated by the missing and backlogged data from the labs, we are seeing that our daily new cases these last few days have stabilized well below the 3,000 cases we were seeing in the middle of July. It's still a very high number but it does show that we're making some progress." 

Ferrer said the numbers made her "cautiously optimistic" that the county is once again slowing the spread of the virus, but she emphasized the word "cautiously."

She credited the county's decision to roll back on reopenings, by closing indoor dining operations as well as bars, for some of the county's success.

"This trend did start to shift in mid-June, particularly when we started implementing some of our modifications and issued some new health officer orders here in the county," Ferrer said.

She asked the public to continue physically distancing themselves from others, wear face coverings when out in public and to avoid gatherings with people outside of their immediate household, saying these measures are clearly working.

"This progress that we've made is essential as we continue building what we call our new normal this month so that we can get to a point where we're able to reopen our schools for in-person learning and more of our neighbors are able to get back to work," she said. "The new normal means that as individuals we're going to make some choices. And we have to make the best possible choices we can. This will mean continuing to avoid crowds, avoiding being physically close to people when we leave our homes, avoiding gatherings with people we don't live with and we have to continue to wear our face coverings."

Ferrer added that the county's numbers could fluctuate over the next several days as the county receives a backlog of confirmed cases from the state's laboratory reporting system.

Governor Gavin Newsom Monday took sole responsibility for the error in the state's reporting system, which resulted in thousands of coronavirus cases not being accounted for over the past two weeks. Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services, said that 295,000 coronavirus cases from a backlog error in the state's reporting system are now available to be processed by the counties. He also said that California has initiated an effort to create a new laboratory reporting system.

Los Angeles County on Monday reported 1,920 new coronavirus cases and 19 additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 210,424 cases and 4,996 deaths.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the list of symptoms of the virus. Congestion or runny nose, nausea, and diarrhea were added, joining the federal agency's list that already included fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell and sore throat.

RELATED: CDC adds another 3 new coronavirus symptoms to the list

Anyone who experiences these symptoms should call their healthcare provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken.

On June 18, the California Department of Public Health issued new guidelines mandating face coverings in most situations while indoors, but also outside when a person cannot maintain six feet of social distance.

RELATED: California governor orders people to wear masks in most indoor spaces

There are exemptions that include children age two and younger because of the risk of suffocation, and for people with a variety of medical or psychological issues that make mask-wearing a hazard.

The use of face coverings is believed to help slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus, without knowing it, from transmitting it to others.

The face coverings can be made at home from common materials at low cost, and the CDC has instructions on how to make them listed on its website

Public Health continues to remind the public that while a majority of those who have died from COVID-19 in the county had underlying health conditions, not everyone does. Residents are urged to continue to take the necessary precautions in order to protect themselves from the virus.

In LA County, approximately 92% of all residents who died from the virus had underlying health conditions. Ferrer said this emphasizes the county's need to protect those with underlying health conditions and urges those residents to stay at home as much as possible.

She said this includes, but is not limited to, individuals with asthma, those who have had cancer, anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and anyone who is immune-compromised.

"If you're part of one of these groups, you need to take every precaution imaginable to protect yourself from COVID-19," said Ferrer.

Health officials say that social distancing remains our best defense against the virus, and all residents are instructed to abide by current measures in place across the state. Social distancing is not only about preventing the illness itself, but rather, slowing the rate at which people get sick. 

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

The county's health department says that because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of widespread transmission, everyone should always wear a face-covering securely over their nose and mouth and keep six feet apart from others not in their household when out and about.

Health officials say coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms. In early April, the CDC changed how it was defining risk of infection for Americans, saying anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not.

RELATED: Asymptomatic coronavirus cases appear to be on the rise in China, report says

Public Health says that the best protection against COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, self-isolate if you are sick, practice physical distancing and wear a clean face covering when in contact with others from outside your household.

Click here for a list of locations of confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County.

RELATED: CoronavirusNOW.com, FOX launches national hub for COVID-19 news and updates. 

CNS contributed to this report.