Los Angeles County reported 1,196 new cases of COVID-19 and 24 more deaths Saturday, bringing the county's totals to 247,542 cases and exactly 6,000 fatalities.
Health officials sadly marked the milestone, while urging residents to celebrate the Labor Day holiday safely and without large parties or gatherings.
"Each day, we join with those mourning the distressing loss of life to COVID-19 and we keep all who are grieving in our thoughts and prayers,'' Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "Unfortunately, today marks another devastating low point for LA County as we acknowledge that 6,000 residents have lost their lives to COVID-19. While the progress we've made over the past several weeks to get back to slowing the spread is very positive, it has come at a cost to so many of our families and neighbors.
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"We have the tools right now to prevent a lot of virus transmission if each of us takes seriously our obligation to make decisions that save lives...We do not need to wait for a vaccine to slow the spread; we just need for every single person to do the right thing. It is nonsense to believe that parties and gatherings are essential for our well-being; parties and gatherings lead to unnecessary exposures and make it that much harder to lower the rate of community transmission so that our children can get back to school and employees back to work. While holidays are typically a time to come together with extended family and friends to celebrate, we ask you to alter your plans this year and take responsibility by not engaging in any risky activities that can spread the virus."
The county said beaches will remain open over the holiday weekend, despite concerns about large crowds that might flock to the sand to escape the heat wave expected to bake the Southland through Monday. But officials with the county Department of Beaches and Harbors warned that health restrictions remain in place, meaning beachgoers must practice social distancing and wear face coverings when not in the water, eating or drinking.
And if crowds get too large and people aren't adhering to the guidelines, the beaches could be cleared.
"We cannot stress enough the importance of following the public health guidelines,'' Beaches and Harbor Director Gary Jones said in a statement. "It is absolutely imperative that beachgoers avoid crowds. If the beaches get too crowded, we may be forced to close them again."
County officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the coronavirus setbacks experienced following the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, which led to dramatic spikes in virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. All three of those metrics have been trending downward in recent weeks in the county, and health officials have been making pleas for the past two weeks that residents avoid Labor Day parties or gatherings with people outside their own households.
Public health officials urged people to only gather with members of their household, and to use their own utensils, cups, food, and drinks and not share with others.
In a bit of good news, the number of people hospitalized in the county continued its steady decline, dropping from 992 to 984. County officials noted that figure is at least a 50% drop from the early August totals that topped 2,000.
Testing results were available for 2,360,795 individuals with 10% of all people testing positive.
Requirements for social distancing and face coverings will be enforced at beaches over the holiday weekend, with some coastal cities prepared to issue fines for violators.
In Manhattan Beach, for example, people who fail to wear masks can face fines beginning at $100 and ranging up to $350. In Santa Monica, violators could be fined as much as $500.
The county Department of Beaches and Harbors also stressed that barbecues and bonfires are prohibited at the beaches and in beach parking lots.