Although still concerned about a possible post-Labor Day spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalization, Los Angeles County health officials confirmed Tuesday the county meets the criteria to move into a less-restrictive phase of the state's economic-reopening roadmap.
However, the county must maintain those numbers for two consecutive weeks before the state will move it out of the most-restrictive "purple" level and into the slightly less onerous "red" tier.
"We plan to closely monitor our data to understand how effectively we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 after the Labor Day holiday and the impact of re-opening schools for high-need students and re-opening hair salons for indoor operations,'' public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "We thank Los Angeles County residents, workers and businesses who have continued to take the steps needed to slow the spread, including wearing their face coverings, physically distancing and not gathering with people outside their household."
The state's color-coded reopening map classifies counties into one of four tiers based on seven-day average testing positivity rate, and the on average number of daily new cases per 100,000 residents.
Local news from across Southern California
According to the state, Los Angeles County as of Tuesday had a testing positivity rate of 2.8% and was averaging seven new cases per 100,000. Those figures would enable the county to move up to the "red" tier, if the numbers hold for two weeks. The average number of new cases is barely under the line. The state's criteria for the red tier allows counties to have no more than seven new cases per 100,000 residents.
County health officials are keeping close watch on new case numbers this week, noting Monday that there was unsettling uptick in daily new case reports for four days last week, potentially indicating a possible spike in cases following the Labor Day holiday weekend.
On Tuesday, the county reported 810 new cases of COVID-19, but it was unclear if the lower-than-usual number was a result of reduced testing over the weekend. Long Beach health officials reported 65 more cases, while Pasadena officials added six.
The new cases increased the cumulative countywide number since the start of the pandemic to 262,207.
The county also reported 40 new deaths due to the virus, increasing the cumulative total to 6,401.
While still monitoring for a possible post-Labor Day spike, health officials said that watching the daily number of hospitalizations can be a more stable figure to analyze. As of Tuesday, there were 745 people hospitalized due to the virus, maintaining what has been a downward trend over the past two months.
In late July, the county was averaging more than 2,200 hospitalizations per day.
If the county moves into the less-restrictive "red" tier, additional businesses would be authorized to reopen, such as indoor shopping malls and movie theaters, all with limited capacity.
The state announced on Tuesday that nail salons are being permitted to reopen with limited capacity and other restrictions, but Los Angeles County has not yet cleared those businesses to resume operating. County health officials said they would consult with the Board of Supervisors to determine the timing of possible loosening of restrictions on the salons.