Los Angeles County reported 500 new cases of COVID-19 and 29 additional deaths Saturday, while the county's test positivity rate was at the lowest level of the pandemic at 0.6%.
According to state figures, there were 410 coronavirus patients hospitalized in the county as of Saturday, down from 414 on Friday, with 86 people in intensive care, down from 88 on Friday. Saturday's figures brought the county's totals to 1,233,488 cases and 23,918 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Two deaths were reported Saturday by the city of Pasadena, which has its own health department. Meanwhile, the county has again eased its COVID-19 health restrictions, allowing indoor playgrounds and arcades to reopen at limited capacity, while lifting restrictions on operating hours for bars, breweries and wineries.
Indoor arcades and playgrounds -- such as laser tag businesses, ball pits or “bounce” centers -- will be restricted to 25% of capacity, along with other mandated safety modifications. Bars, which are currently allowed to operate outdoors only, had been restricted to operating hours of 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., but those restrictions are now lifted.
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The easing of restrictions, however, comes amid continued concern about the slowing pace of vaccinations in the county.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer again stressed the urgency for people to get inoculated, while also continuing to adhere to other health guidelines to prevent a resurgence of the virus locally.
“Getting vaccinated in L.A. County is easier and more accessible than ever before and we encourage everyone waiting to get vaccinated to take advantage of the opportunity as soon as possible,” Ferrer said. “There continues to be much higher risk of COVID-19 transmission among unvaccinated people. As more L.A. County residents and workers are vaccinated, the risk of transmission of variants is significantly reduced and we get back to the many activities that we loved to do before the pandemic.”
The health department also reported a continuing reduction in the number of cases in the homeless community. Since the peak of 684 weekly cases reported during late-December, case numbers among people experiencing homelessness substantially dropped to 59 new cases this week, officials said.
The county is expected to reach the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state's four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy when updated statistics are released on Tuesday.
Ferrer said if the county does qualify for the move, a new health order with more relaxed restrictions will be published Wednesday, taking effect Thursday. Entering the yellow tier will primarily allow higher capacity limits at most businesses.
Fitness centers, cardrooms, wineries and breweries, for instance, would be permitted to increase indoor attendance limits to 50%, up from the current 25%; bars would be able to open indoors at 25%; outdoor venues such as Dodger Stadium could increase capacity to 67%, up from the current 33%; and amusement parks could allow 35%, up from 25%.
The county also revised its health order this week to incorporate changes in mask-wearing guidelines recommended this week for fully vaccinated people by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The revisions also state that surveillance COVID testing is no longer recommended for fully vaccinated people, unless they work at skilled nursing facilities or other high-risk settings, are traveling internationally or are required by a particular business or facility.