County coronavirus numbers continue downward trends, official says

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — A county health official painted a positive picture Aug. 24 of downward trends in coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations, but he also offered a reminder that past complacency and deviations from health orders led to upward spikes that could be repeated.

“The work we have all done as a community and the sacrifices we are making are working,” Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “We’re preventing COVID-19 infections, including serious illness and deaths. Second, if we can maintain this lower transmission, it means that we could begin to think about schools and more businesses reopening or someday moving their operations back indoors.

“But what I’d like to stress is the importance of all of us learning from our recent past and the spikes in cases, hospitalizations as well as deaths in our community that we experienced in July,” he said. “As we continue our journey of recovery, we must all proceed with caution. All of us must own our roles in this recovery.”

Davis announced 13 new deaths from the coronavirus, raising the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 5,560. Davis also confirmed 1,198 new cases, lifting the cumulative number to 232,937. The number of people hospitalized in the county stood at 1,219 as of Monday, continuing a plunge from late-July averages of more than 2,000.

Davis walked through charts showing the trajectory of key virus-tracking numbers — daily numbers of new cases, positivity rates, hospitalization numbers and deaths. In each case, the numbers climbed dramatically in mid-July on the heels of widespread business reopenings and the Fourth of July weekend. The numbers have since trended downward, following tighter restrictions such as forcing many businesses to operate outdoors only.

In the past week, health officials have noted that the county now meets five of the state’s six virus-monitoring criteria, falling short only on the rate of new cases per 100,000 residents. Until that rate of spread slows, the county will remain on the state’s list and will be unable to lessen restrictions or reopen school campuses.

L.A. County was one of 35 counties on the watchlist as of Aug. 24. Orange County was removed from the list over the weekend.

“Together we must all take our roles seriously and be diligent,” Davis said. “It is everyone’s goal to get to a place where we have a safer reopening. But community transmission rates must continue to decrease if we are to get to this place, including where schools can reopen in a way that is safer for students, teachers and staff members.

“Cautious reopening doesn’t mean that everything will go back to normal and that it will return to the way it was before COVID-19,” he said. “Cautious reopening means we take to heart the lessons we learned from July and move forward in a new normal of making the infection-control practices part of our day-to-day lives for the foreseeable future.”