Los Angeles County’s remarkable COVID-19 recovery took another milestone on Tuesday as the region progressed through the least restrictive category of California’s reopening system.
The transition to the yellow level allows the most populous county in the country to free up its economy to the widest extent possible, which means that a wide range of businesses and venues – including gymnasiums, cinemas, parks of attractions, stadiums and museums – can operate at higher levels. capacity.
And some of the last interior spaces that had yet to be vacated for reopening, including bars that don’t serve meals, saunas and steam rooms, will be able to do so from later this week.
While state-level awards set the floor for what’s allowed, counties have the power to impose additional restrictions – something LA County has done periodically throughout the pandemic.
In a briefing on Monday, however, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county “would align quite significantly with the direction the state is taking.”
“We just want to make sure that wherever you go you can always keep a distance of at least six feet from others, that everyone is always wearing their mask appropriately – except people. vaccinated and a handful of… activities – and infection control is always evident wherever people go and where they mix, ”she said. “So we still have to protect our workers. We still have to protect children. “
Ferrer said the county plans to issue an order from the health official regarding the wider reopenings on Wednesday that go into effect on Thursday.
The level at which a county is placed depends on three parameters: its rate of new cases of coronavirus, adjusted according to the number of tests performed; the speed at which the tests performed come back positive; and a health equity measure applied to ensure that the rate of positive tests in the poorest communities is not significantly higher than the overall county figure.
Counties must record two consecutive weeks of qualifying data to move to a less restrictive level and must remain within a level for at least three weeks before moving again.
Achieving the yellow level requires a daily adjusted new case rate of less than 2 per 100,000 people, an overall test positivity of less than 2%, and a health equity positivity of less than 2.2%.
LA County’s test positivity has been in the yellow range for about a month, but it wasn’t until last week that its adjusted case rate finally fell below the necessary threshold.
Even so, at 1.9, the county’s rate was barely within the qualifying range – even a slight regression threatening to delay advancement.
But the county’s adjusted case rate fell instead, to 1.6, according to state data released on Tuesday.
“We’ve done a really decent job of keeping our own if you look at our case numbers,” Ferrer said. “And people are really invested, I think, at this point to see our recovery progress.”
LA County is one of only seven counties to climb to the bottom rung of California’s reopening ladder.
Prior to this week, only four of the state’s 58 counties – Alpine, Sierra, Lassen and Mendocino – had reached this stage.
But the yellow club have almost doubled in size since, with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Trinity counties all advancing this week.
Thirty-nine counties are now in the orange level, the second most forgiving category in California’s four-level color-coded reopening plan, and 12 counties are in the more stringent red level. No part of the state is currently in the most restrictive purple level.
California as a whole has seen a dramatic drop in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations following the fall and winter wave that wreaked havoc throughout the state.
Over the past week, the state reported an average of 1,760 new cases per day, a 25% decrease from two weeks ago, according to data compiled by The Times.
The number of coronavirus-positive patients in California hospitals – which exceeded 21,000 at the height of the outbreak – had fallen to 1,626 as of Sunday.
And the state has seen an equally steep drop in the number of residents paying the ultimate price for the pandemic. Over the past week, an average of 66 Californians have died from COVID-19 per day – a fraction of the hundreds of high daily tolls seen at the height of the last peak.
Public health officials and experts say California’s progress is proof of the potency of COVID-19 vaccines, which are now available to all ages 16 and older.
About half of all Californians and 63% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine to date, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, only 32% of residents and 41% of adults are considered fully vaccinated, meaning they have received the single injection vaccine from Johnson & Johnson or the required two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
Officials have also seen demand for shots run out of steam in recent times.
During the week of April 17-23, 611,592 doses were administered in LA County – an average of about 87,000 per day. From April 24 to 30, only 467,134 doses were distributed, an average of about 67,000 per day.
“At this point, the goal for us is to make it as easy as possible for people to come and to feel comfortable getting their vaccine,” Ferrer said.