Los Angeles County's public health director says officials will be closely monitoring data this week to see if the region is beginning to see a feared post-Labor Day spike following an unsettling four-day increase in daily coronavirus case numbers.
Daily numbers reported over the last four days of last week showed a rise in COVID-19 cases, Barbara Ferrer noted Monday. The numbers showed a standard drop over the weekend, the result of reduced testing and a lag in reporting of weekend results. But the numbers from late last week were cause for concern.
"We are looking every day at the data to see whether we have an indication that we are going to see a surge in the number of cases, which would be the first place we would see an increase related to how we all behaved with each other over the Labor Day holiday," Ferrer said. "And as I just noted, we do have four days of data from last week which showed a significant increase in the number of cases."
She said the county will be closely monitoring cases the rest of this week, noting that a rise in cases is traditionally followed by more dire consequences.
"After you see the increase in cases, that's when another week or two later you start seeing the increase in hospitalization and that often is followed by, unfortunately, an increase in deaths," Ferrer said. "I want to be cautiously optimistic, but we did have four days of data last week that showed increases in cases, so we're going to have to pay a lot of attention to the data this week."
An increase in cases would be a blow to hopes of the county moving into a less restrictive tier of the state's four-tier coronavirus economic- recovery matrix. The county is currently in the most restrictive, or purple, tier of the chart, which is based on the testing-positivity rates and average daily new case numbers.
To move into the next tier, the red tier, the county would need to maintain a daily average of about 700 new cases or less for two straight weeks.
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On Monday, Ferrer reported 652 new cases, noting again that figures reported on Sundays and Mondays tend to be misleadingly low due to drops in weekend testing and reporting of results. Long Beach health officials reported 47 additional cases Monday afternoon, while Pasadena health officials added eight more. The new cases lifted the countywide cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 261,501.
Ferrer also reported another 16 coronavirus-related deaths, while Pasadena reported one additional fatality, increasing the countywide toll to 6,366.
As of Monday, there were 749 people hospitalized with the virus. That number has been on a steady decline for more than a month.
Also as of Monday, more than 2.5 million people have been tested in Los Angeles County, and the overall positivity rate -- which had been holding steady at about 10% for months -- dropped to 9%. Ferrer said that drop reflects the more recent positivity rate, which "has been declining for the past six weeks."
According to the county's website, the most recent seven-day average of testing results put the current positivity rate at about 3%.