Los Angeles County reported 358 new cases of COVID-19 and 13 additional deaths Sunday, bringing the county's totals to 288,451 cases with 6,876 fatalities.
Officials said the lower number of cases and deaths reflects reporting delays over the weekend and problems with the state's data feed.
Hospitalizations rose slightly for the second straight day after dropping for four consecutive days. A total of 752 people were hospitalized due to the virus as of Sunday, up from 746 on Saturday, 735 on Friday, 723 on Thursday, 720 on Wednesday and 692 on Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Although coronavirus hospitalizations have been generally trending downward since July, health officials still fear a potential spike in hospital demand if the region experiences a severe flu season while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging, and are recommending flu shots for all in hopes of avoiding a surge of hospital demand due to influenza and COVID-19.
The department continues to urge residents to learn and abide by new county and state guidance which allow limited private gatherings with three or fewer households. All private gatherings must occur outdoors. Attendees must wear a cloth face covering when they are together except when they are eating or drinking and keep at least six feet of physical distance. Food must be served in single-serve disposable containers, and the duration of the gathering should be two hours or less.
It is recommended that if residents do gather with two other households, that they do so with the same households each time, creating a quasi-bubble that can reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.
"To slow community spread of COVID-19 in our county we must all partner together; businesses and residents must do their part and adopt the infection control measures that we know to be effective,'' county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Saturday. "Each of us has the opportunity every single day to make the right choices for our health and the health of those around us. If we work together to limit transmission and slow the spread of COVID-19, not only will the county move to a less restrictive tier that allows us to consider additional re-openings, we will save lives."
The county's top health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, said Thursday the change in policy on gatherings -- while originated by the state -- was an acknowledgement that such small gatherings were already occurring, despite health orders barring them. Davis said changing the health order was a chance for county officials to at least establish some guidelines for such meetings in hopes of limiting virus spread.
But the change came at a time when the county has seen rising daily COVID-19 case numbers and an uptick in the transmission rate, indicating a likely increase in future cases barring major behavioral changes and stricter adherence to health guidelines such as wearing face coverings.
In order to move out of the most restrictive tier of the state's four-tier coronavirus economic-reopening roadmap, the county needs to get its daily average new case numbers down to about 700. In the past week, however, the number has regularly topped 1,200.