Los Angeles County reported a staggering 3,600 new coronavirus cases on Thursday. The large number was attributed to the resolution of a technical glitch that delayed a raft of test results over the past several days. But even subtracting the backlog, the spike is still the largest daily new cases total in at least two months.
County health officials estimated that about 2,000 of the newly-announced cases were the result of the backlog. That would set the day’s real total at 1600, far above the 800-1000 new cases in the past few weeks and still the largest daily case number recorded since August.
“If you look over the last one to two weeks, we’ve been averaging somewhere around 1,000 cases, maybe a little bit over 1,000 cases a day,” said Dr. Paul Simon, chief science officer for the county Department of Public Health, on Thursday.
“So today, I think, reflects sort of the catch-up,” Simon added.
But there may be even more catching up to come. In its daily coronavirus announcement, the L.A. Department of Public Health said it “anticipates receiving additional backlog test results over the next few days.” That could mean more big numbers that bring the rolling average of new cases yet higher.
The county had announced 4,825 new cases on July 29, but cases during that period seem to have been adjusted downward on L.A.’s surveillance dashboard possibly after a previous data backlog that was reported in early August.
Another worrying data point was the fact that, during the July peak, L.A. was processing a 7-day average of about 36,000 tests a day. Recently, that average has been more in the 15,000-20,000 range. That means the current positives are being found with about half the number of tests. That’s not good.
Two months ago, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced with much fanfare an effort to establish wide-scale use of rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests. While it has not yet come to pass, local health officials are reportedly poised to announce details of a pilot program next week that will employ an FDA-approved test and assess the feasibility of its widespread use.
The county also announced 18 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, pushing the overall total to 6,956.
The state of California reported a spike in deaths on Thursday, with 162. The state has not seen a number like that in at least a month.
As of Thursday, there were 777 people hospitalized in L.A. County due to the virus, up from 758 on Wednesday, 730 on Tuesday, 722 on Monday and 752 on Sunday.
County public health director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday there have been “concerning” upticks in cases in recent weeks, delaying a move to a less-restrictive tier of the state’s economic reopening roadmap.
But despite those concerns and the county’s continued banishment to the most restrictive “Purple” tier of the state’s matrix, health officials said more restrictions on business operations will be lifted this week, including:
-Removal of the one-day-advance-reservation requirement for customers of wineries and craft breweries
-Removal of the requirement that winery customers purchase food with
-Authorization for family entertainment centers to reopen outdoors
The county is also expanding a program that allows schools to resume in-person instruction for high-need and English-learning students. That program currently allows schools to bring such students back to campus, up to 10% of a school’s overall enrollment. That limit is now being increased to 25%, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said, “so more students and youth can have access to their teachers and the on- site support systems that are so critical for their growth and for their education.”
Public health director Barbara Ferrer said that as of this week, 986 schools are taking part in that program, with nearly 35,000 students now receiving in-person instruction and nearly 20,000 teachers and staff back on campuses.
Those changes in the county’s health officer order are expected to be finalized Friday.
Four school campuses this week also were approved for waivers allowing them to resume in-person instruction for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Ferrer said a total of 110 schools have applied for those waivers so far, and more applications are being processed by the county and state.
L.A. County’s spike in daily cases comes as about 30 of the country’s 50 states are headed in the wrong direction, with only one — Hawaii — seeing better COVID numbers.
The U.S. is now averaging about 60,000 new cases a day. That’s comparable with any time during the pandemic. Test positivity rates were in the 20s in many states, which is not a good place for the nation to be going into winter amid fears of a coronavirus-flu twindemic.
The L.A. numbers come as Deadline reported Thursday that the production of Reagan, the Ronald Reagan biopic filming in Oklahoma and starring Dennis Quaid in the title role, has been temporarily halted after an outbreak of coronavirus among crew members.
City News Service contributed to this report.