Los Angeles County reported 1,236 new cases of COVID-19 and 18 additional deaths Saturday, bringing the county's totals to 266,988 cases and 6,504 fatalities.
Officials said the county has not experienced a significant surge in cases associated with the Labor Day holiday. The average number of cases for the week ending Friday was 1,074, while the average for the week ending Sept. 5 was 1,176, according to the Los Angeles County Health Department.
However, the department said the numbers continue to indicate that there is still wide-spread community transmission of COVID-19, with younger people driving new infections. Nearly 70% of the cases reported Saturday occurred among people under the age of 50 years old.
"As we enter the fall, I am hopeful that we can remain collectively committed to making progress by reducing the transmission of the virus. I do not think it is inevitable that we see a huge surge again this fall," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
"Rather, I am convinced by our recent data and the actions taken by many, that we can do what is essential to slow the spread. I know it won't be easy and it will require continued sacrifices and hardships. We cannot yet re-open every sector; we cannot yet host and attend gatherings and events; we cannot yet stop protecting those who are most vulnerable. I do believe, however, that we can continue a thoughtful and measured recovery that prioritizes making it as safe as possible for children to get back to school and adults back to work.''
The number of people hospitalized in the county due to the coronavirus declined from 760 on Friday to 715, with 29% of those patients in intensive care.
Local nail salons have been awaiting word from the county on whether they can resume indoor operations. The state has cleared the business to reopen, but the county has kept them closed, pending word on a possible post-Labor Day increase that health officials fear might be exacerbated by further reopenings.
A surge in cases could also threaten the county's ability to move out of the most restrictive tier of the state's coronavirus economic-reopening roadmap. What had been declining case numbers put the county on the verge of moving from the restrictive "purple" tier to the less-onerous "red" tier, which would allow more businesses to reopen, including movie theaters.
But one of the metrics used by the state to rate counties' efforts to slow the spread of the virus is the number of new daily cases per 100,000 residents -- a figure now rising in L.A. County.
On Friday officials also announced four more cases of the COVID-related childhood malady known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C. The four news cases lifted the county's overall total number of cases to 38 -- none of which have been fatal.
The syndrome is considered rare, and is characterized by inflammation of various organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin and eyes.
County health officials confirmed this week that more than 70 citations have been issued over the past month to various businesses and organizations -- most notably churches and gyms -- for violating health restrictions imposed to control spread of COVID-19, although no closures have been ordered.
Dr. Muntu Davis, Los Angeles County's health officer, said Thursday that failures to adhere to the restrictions, particularly those barring many indoor business operations and worship services, can exacerbate the spread of the virus.
"Not just for us in terms of public health but others who are watching and monitoring the spread of this virus and trying to do everything we can to control it, it is concerning when we don't have compliance with the measures that are needed in order to slow the spread of this within our county," Davis said in an online media briefing Thursday.
"As we go through, we continue to look at all options that might be available to us," he said. "Of course, I can't go into a lot of details on each case, but (we) continue to try to build what we need to in terms of getting compliance from everyone. This is really what's needed at this point. Everybody has to do what they need to do in order to slow it down."
According to figures posted on the county Department of Public Health website, 71 citations were issued "due to lack of compliance with Health Officer Orders" between Aug. 29 and Sunday.
Several businesses were cited multiple times over that period, including a Coast Fitness facility in Hawthorne, which was cited at least four times; various locations of Crunch Fitness, including those in Cerritos, La Mirada and Lancaster; and Powerhouse Gym in Torrance, which was cited at least five times.
Multiple churches are also on the list, including Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, which the county took to court, obtaining an injunction to bar the facility from holding indoor worship services. According to the county, the church has been cited three times since the court order was issued on Sept. 10.
On Wednesday, the county reported a disturbing increase in the local virus transmission rate -- the average number of people a coronavirus patient infects with the illness. That number had been steadily declining, dropping below the critical threshold of 1.0, but on Wednesday, it rose to 1.02.
Health officials have said that keeping the transmission rate below 1 is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.