As film and TV production begins to restart tomorrow, Los Angeles County has reported the highest single-day total of new cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began.
The county Department of Public Health reported 1,857 new confirmed coronavirus cases. 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. Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments, combined to confirm an additional 84 cases. That gave the county 1,941 new confirmed cases total on Thursday.
Lab delays have occurred nearly every week during the pandemic. Adding delayed numbers into the daily total has been commonplace for the county health department which means that, while not all days have delayed numbers, enough do for the record high to seem significant.
Usually, increased testing — which is good — is to blame for a higher case rate. A county tracking chart, however, showed a decline in testing numbers over the last few days, which would throw water on the theory that increased testing is responsible for the rise in new cases.
To date, a total of 68,959 cases of the virus have been confirmed countywide.
The big spike in cases comes one day ahead of a revised county health order taking effect that will permit not just film and TV production to resume in the county. L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti has said the city would also allow production to restart.
Under the new order, other businesses allowed to open beginning Friday will include:
— 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
— 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. Ironically, however, while production is allowed to start tomorrow, the promised protocols from the county’s industry task force are nowhere to be seen.
County public health director Barbara Ferrer stressed on 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.
Last week, Dr. Christina Ghaly, the director of Health Services for L.A. County, noted that the “R” number, or effective transmission rate, seemed to be rising slightly. Based on modeling, Ghaly warned, “The number of ICU beds may become inadequate…DHS is watching this number on a daily basis very
At Wednesday’s county briefing, Ghaly announced that the model is now “more certain” that R has “increased again slightly and is now greater than one. At 1, every infected person passes the virus on to only one other person, and the number of those infected remains steady. Above 1, the number of those infected begins to rise.
But as L.A reopens, Garcetti said on Wednesday that “county estimates indicate that it might be closer to 1.3.” That’s a more specific number than county officials were willing to venture earlier on Wednesday.
“Because of this,” continued Ghaly, “the model predicts that the spread of COVID-19 in the Los Angeles County area is likely to increase gradually over time.”
The number of ICU beds, reported Ghaly, may become inadequate in the next 2-4 weeks. That’s an escalated time frame from the 4-week window she gave last Friday.
Ghaly emphasized that the department is working with hospitals across the county, both private and public, to help them surge ICU beds and allocate more PPE.
Asked if the county was moving too fast with reopening given the numbers and modeling, Director BFerrer said she felt if “sectors open with the proper protocols, it can be done safely…But it does depend a lot on businesses doing their part.
“We’re watching to make sure that we don’t see indicators that will make us want to pause…or institute restrictions,” said Ferrer.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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