As more businesses and attractions prepare to reopen Friday, Los Angeles County reported another 46 deaths due to the coronavirus Thursday, while also confirming the highest single-day total of new cases of COVID-19.
The 46 new deaths increased the county's total number of fatalities to 2,813. On Thursday afternoon, Long Beach health officials announced another five deaths, raising the countywide total to 2,818.
The county Department of Public Health also reported 1,857 new confirmed cases of the virus. While it was the largest single-day number of new cases announced by the county during the pandemic, health officials said roughly 600 of those cases were the result of a backlog in the reporting of test results. On Thursday afternoon, Long Beach and Pasadena combined to confirm an additional 84 cases.
To date, a total of 68,959 cases of the virus have been confirmed countywide.
Of the people who have died from the virus, 93% had underlying health conditions, a percentage that has remained largely unchanged throughout the pandemic.
The new cases and deaths came one day ahead of a revised health order taking effect that will permit a wider array of businesses and attractions to reopen in Los Angeles County.
Under the new order, allowed to open beginning Friday will be:
- gyms and fitness centers;
- professional sports venues without live audiences;
- day camps;
- museums and galleries;
- zoos and aquariums;
- campgrounds and RV parks;
- outdoor recreation such as swimming pools;
- music, film and television production; and
- hotels for leisure travel.
Movie theaters are not included in the new order, even though the state has released protocols allowing them to reopen if individual counties approve.
County health officials noted that public-safety restrictions will be in place at all reopening businesses, including mandates for wearing face coverings and requiring social distancing.
County public health director Barbara Ferrer stressed Wednesday that the reopening of more business sectors should not be seen as an indication the county is out of the woods in terms of the coronavirus pandemic, noting,
“We're still in the middle of the woods and we have a lot of risk.”
She said it will remain important for residents to adhere to the health restrictions when visiting any reopened business, and for the businesses themselves to enforce them.
Highlighting the need for such precautions, health officials confirmed Wednesday there has been a slight uptick in the rate of the virus' spread in the county. At the height of the pandemic, people infected with COVID-19 transmitted the virus to an average of three other people. Under strict stay-at-home orders and business closures, that number fell to below one.
But in the weeks since businesses have been allowed to reopen and more people have been mingling in the community, that infection rate has now risen above one. The county's medical services director, Dr. Christina Ghaly, said Wednesday the county has enough hospital beds to handle an increase in cases, but the higher infection rate could lead to a shortage of intensive-care beds within two to four weeks.
Ghaly said the county's modeling predicts “the spread of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles County area is likely to increase gradually over time.” She stressed that the predictions are based solely on actual hospitalization numbers, not on the increasing numbers of people who are leaving their homes and interacting with the public at newly opened businesses or -- more recently -- massive protests against police brutality.