Los Angeles County’s weeks-long decline in new Covid-19 case rates stalled on Tuesday, even as California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state is planning to drop its restrictive Covid-19 tier system come June 15. As a result of its numbers, L.A. County will be unable to advance to the less-restrictive Yellow tier of the aforementioned reopening tiers for at least three more weeks.
The state’s weekly update of county-by-county figures put Los Angeles’ seven-day average daily rate of new Covid-19 infections at 3.1 per 100,000 residents, the same level as last week. By contrast on Tuesday, 16 other counties in the state moved to less severe tiers.
L.A.’s case rate leaves the county firmly entrenched in the Orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs business and recreational restrictions during the pandemic. The county officially entered the Orange tier last week, but did not ease its health-order restrictions until Monday.
Another region (mostly) in the Orange tier is the Bay Area. That region saw a rise in Coronavirus infections in its constituent counties last week. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the average number of daily new cases rose 8.7% from the prior week.
Orange County, for its part, reported a slight decline in overall hospitalization numbers but an uptick in the number of intensive care patients. More concerning is that the county’s average weekly Covid-19 case count has ticked up from 2.8 to near L.A.’s number at 3.
Orange County, the Bay Area and L.A. are, of course, among the most densely-populated areas of the state and may be feeling the influence in the rise of more infectious Coronavirus variants. The most prominent of those, the so-called “West Coast” variant, is found in 60% of test samples chosen to be genomically tested, according to CA’s top health official. San Francisco is also the region where, last week, the much-publicized “double mutant” variant made its first appearance in the state.
The rise is similar to trends across the U.S. which, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Monday, has seen rising numbers of cases in each of the past four weeks.
Meanwhile, Newsom announced Tuesday that the state’s overall test positivity rate had fallen to 1.8%, which he called the lowest in the nation. Newsom also announced that the state will scrap its Blueprint for a Safer Economy on June 15, lifting all of its restrictions — aside from mask-wearing — and eliminating the color-coded tier system. That’s assuming continued supply of vaccines and no spikes in Covid hospitalizations.
Advancing to the yellow tier — which would allow a further loosening of capacity restrictions at most businesses — originally required counties to have an average daily new case rate of less than 1 per 100,000 residents. That threshold, however, was eased Tuesday to less than 2 per 100,000 residents because the state hit the goal of 4 million vaccine doses administered in low-income communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
At 3.1 new cases per 100,000 residents, Los Angeles County is still well short of the yellow tier level.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday she did not expect the county to reach the Yellow-tier level this week. She reiterated the point Tuesday morning while addressing the county Board of Supervisors.
She also said she anticipated a leveling off of the county’s rate of new cases, despite several weeks of significant drops, telling the board the metrics likely “will not change significantly this week or next.”
The state updates the county-by-county statistics every Tuesday. See map below for today’s assessments.
But movement within the tier system is expected to be moot by summer, not just because the tier system will be eliminated, but also because L.A. is moving toward herd immunity. Newsom framed that progress as a contest against variants.
“This is really a race: These vaccines against the variants,” said Newsom.
Speaking to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, Ferrer reiterated that if the county receives an average of 576,000 doses per week — which is roughly in line with projected allocations through the end of this month — it will have capacity to vaccinate 80% of all residents 16 years and older in about 12 weeks, or roughly the end of June. Deadline broke down those numbers and found that that would likely mean herd immunity for the entire state.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.