Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said, however, that the data show stay-at-home and other COVID precautions are slowing the spread of the virus.
Ferrer announced Thursday at the county’s daily news conference that the death total from the pandemic had risen to 2,016. Ferrer also announced 1,204 new cases had been detected, lifting the county’s overall total to 42,037.
“As more people are going back to work,” said Ferrer, “we need our employers and our employees to work together to make sure that employees and customers are in an environment that’s as safe as possible.”
While the number of fatalities continues to rise, the county has also hit an important positive milestone.
Ferrer pointed out that a key indicator shows that the spread of the virus is slowing. She pointed to recent figures indicating that people who test positive for the illness in the county are now infecting an average of less than one other person, down from three early in the pandemic. Scientists call this the effective transmission number, or “R.”
But by late March, after the stay-at-home order was put into effect, the ‘R’ fell to 1. That meant, on average, every person with COVID-19 infected one just other person, which creates a plateau.
On Wednesday, Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services for L.A. County, said the R number was now slightly under 1. That means the number of cases should actually start declining.
“If ‘R’ stays under 1,” she said, “then the epidemic in Los Angeles County is expected to decrease over time.”
This came on the same day that Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn wrote a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom urging him to allow smaller retail businesses statewide to reopen under the same health protocols that “essential” retail businesses — big box stores such as Target, Home Depot and Costco — have been allowed to operate under.
In other good news, the Public Health Department noted that, while the number of deaths topped 2,000, the 7-day average of deaths per day decreased for most groups.
“This is very good news,” said Dr. Ferrer. “It shows that what we’re doing over the past few weeks…has resulted in a reduced number of infections from what we would have had had we not taken any actions.”
Ferrer also pointed to serology testing results released this week showing that 2.1% of test subjects had antibodies to the virus in their systems, indicating they had been infected at some point. That figure is down from 4.1% in test subjects just one month ago.
“All of this…lets us know that the extraordinary efforts and sacrifices made by all of you are working,” she said. “This progress is a direct reflection of what all of you in your day-to-day lives have been able to accomplish.”
City News Service contributed to this report