Covid Progress Stalls In Los Angeles, Orange County And Bay Area Even As State Announces Broad Reopenings
The week-long decline in new Covid-19 case rates in Los Angeles County stalled Tuesday, despite California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing the state plans to end its restrictive Covid-19 tier system on June 15 The county will not be able to reach the less restrictive yellow tier of the above reopening levels for at least three more weeks.
The weekly update of the numbers from county to county by the state put the average 7-day rate of new Covid-19 infections in Los Angeles at 3.1 per 100,000 inhabitants, the level of the previous week. In contrast, 16 other counties in the state moved in less stringent stages on Tuesday.
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With L.A.'s fall rate, the county is firmly anchored in the orange tier of the state's blueprint for a safer economy, which governs business and leisure restrictions during the pandemic. The county officially entered the Orange tier last week, but it wasn't until Monday that it eased its health regime restrictions.
Another region (mostly) in the Orange Plain is the Bay Area. There was an increase in coronavirus infections in counties in this region last week. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the average number of new cases each day increased 8.7% from the previous week.
For its part, Orange County reported a slight decrease in the total number of hospitalizations, but an increase in the number of ICU patients. Even more worrying, the county's average weekly Covid-19 case number has increased from 2.8 to near LA at 3.
Orange County, the Bay Area and LA are, of course, some of the most densely populated areas in the state and may be feeling the impact on the rise of more infectious coronavirus variants. The best known of these, the so-called "West Coast" variant, is found in 60% of the test samples selected for genomic testing according to the CA's chief health officer. San Francisco is also the region where the highly acclaimed "double mutant" variant first appeared in the state last week.
The increase is similar to trends in the US, where CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Monday has seen an increasing number of cases over the past four weeks.
Meanwhile, Newsom announced Tuesday that the state's positive test positivity rate had fallen to 1.8%, what it called the lowest in the nation. Newsom also announced that on June 15, the state will scrap its blueprint for a safer economy to lift all restrictions other than wearing masks and remove the color-coded animal system. This assumes that the vaccines continue to be supplied with vaccines and that hospital stays in Covid do not show any peaks.
Originally, to move up to the yellow tier, which would allow capacity constraints to be relaxed further in most companies, the counties had to have an average daily new hire rate of less than 1 per 100,000 residents. However, that threshold was lowered to less than 2 per 100,000 residents on Tuesday as the state hit its target of 4 million vaccine doses given in low-income communities hardest hit by the pandemic.
With 3.1 new cases per 100,000 population, Los Angeles County is still well below the yellow level.
Barbara Ferrer, LA county director of public health, said Monday she did not expect the county to hit yellow levels this week. She repeated the point on Tuesday morning when she contacted the county regulator.
She also said she expected the number of new cases in the county to slow with significant declines despite several weeks of disease, and told the board that the metrics are unlikely to "change materially this week or next." .
The state updates the statistics from county to county every Tuesday. For today's ratings, see the map below.
However, it is expected that movement within the tiered system will be controversial by the summer, not only because the tiered system is eliminated, but also because LA is moving towards herd immunity. Newsom has presented this advancement as a competition against variants.
"This is really a race: these vaccines against the variants," Newsom said.
Speaking to the board of directors on Tuesday, Ferrer reiterated that if the county receives an average of 576,000 doses per week - which is roughly the planned allocations by the end of this month - it can vaccinate 80% of residents 16 years and older in about 12 weeks or more around the end of June. The Deadline has broken down those numbers and determined that this would likely mean herd immunity for the entire state.
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