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Los Angeles County faced its first major test of COVID-19 recovery over the weekend as a wave of businesses were allowed to reopen, as were golf courses, trails and parks.
How did it go? “It was a very mixed bag,” said L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer during Monday’s briefing from the Board of Supervisors’ headquarters in downtown L.A., during which she praised the park facilities while outing some floral shops for not following mandates: “We only had to close a few places. Most were able to come into compliance and come into compliance very quickly.”
She said, per a report from the L.A. County Department of Parks and Recreation, that trails saw “larger but manageable” crowds. The department staffed local trails with extra monitors who were on hand to remind outdoor enthusiasts to wear cloth masks, avoid lingering and practice physical distancing. Efforts were largely successful, and Ferrer seemed pleased with that effort.
However, when it came to floral shops — a sector allowed to open under the first wave of eased restrictions on one of the business weekends of the year with the Mother’s Day holiday — the results were less than impressive. Ferrer said health officers surveyed 410 businesses over the weekend and found that 162 stores were in violation of health officer orders. She said officers found some stores allowing guests inside (only curbside pickup was allowed) and were not requiring the use of cloth face masks.
Because of that, “we had to require some businesses to close since they were not in compliance,” Ferrer explained. “It’s extraordinarily important to follow health officer orders. Businesses should not open until they can adhere to all protocols.”
Monday’s briefing also included updates on the county’s coronavirus case count, including an additional 39 deaths for a total of 1,569 to date. Ferrer also reported an additional 591 newly diagnosed positive cases for a total of 32,258, and she was quick to point out that Monday’s numbers are usually on the lower end due to weekend lab closures.
Other key numbers: 234 positive cases among L.A. County’s homeless population; 23 active investigations at shelters where there is at least one positive case; 1,690 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 illness and 15 percent of those patients are on ventilators; 444 confirmed cases in jails (339 inmates, 105 staff); and one more death from the Terminal Island correctional facility, for a total of seven deaths thus far.
Ferrer, for the first time, also offered an update on pregnant women who have been infected, stating there have been 134 positive cases. Eighty-two percent of the women were exhibiting symptoms. So far, 29 live births have been recorded, while one woman gave birth to a baby that did not live, though it’s unclear if it had anything to do with the virus. Tests were administered at birth on 24 infants — including one set of twins — and all came back negative. “We’re so happy to welcome you to our community,” Ferrer said.
Since last week’s update on health care workers in the county, there have been five more fatalities within that industry for a total of 20 so far in the pandemic. More than 3,600 health care workers and first responders have tested positive, with nurses making up 46 percent of cases.
Ferrer said her team will issue a new public health officer order on Wednesday that could allow for more reopening. It is expected to include L.A. County beaches, though Ferrer did not confirm that on Monday. She did, however, say that when beaches do reopen, it will be first for active recreation to keep crowds moving and avoid large gatherings. “Like everyone else,” she said, “we are anxious to be on this recovery journey. We can only do this with everyone’s cooperation.”
Recovery here will be slow, Ferrer cautioned, and likely will not follow other parts of the state. “Half of the cases and half of the deaths are here in L.A. County,” she explained, citing its density, population and potential for infection as being greater than other areas because it is the state’s largest county. “We have to pay attention to what’s going on in our county. … We have some conditions that create more risk. We are going to go really slow.”
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