Uptick in L.A. County’s COVID-19 case rate raises concerns over increased transmission during Labor Day holiday

Noble Horvath

After weeks of improvement, a recent uptick in Los Angeles County’s daily coronavirus case rates is raising concerns over potential increased virus transmission from Labor Day holiday celebrations, public health officials said Saturday. “The recent increases in the number of new cases is of concern because it may reflect increased […]

After weeks of improvement, a recent uptick in Los Angeles County’s daily coronavirus case rates is raising concerns over potential increased virus transmission from Labor Day holiday celebrations, public health officials said Saturday.

“The recent increases in the number of new cases is of concern because it may reflect increased exposures associated with Labor Day activities,” County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

Daily case rates have risen over the past four days and while health officials say the change can be attributed to the reopening of testing sites and more people getting tested this week, it may also suggest increased transmission over the Labor Day holiday.

“We will be following our case numbers carefully over this upcoming week” the health department said in the statement. L.A. County’s test positivity rate has remained stable at 3% for the past week.

People gather on the beach on the second day of the Labor Day weekend amid a heatwave in Santa Monica on Sept. 6, 2020. (APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
People gather on the beach on the second day of the Labor Day weekend amid a heatwave in Santa Monica on Sept. 6, 2020. (APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

The daily case rate was at 8.1 cases per 100,000 Wednesday — not meeting the state’s required rate of a maximum of 7 daily cases per 100,000 county residents needed to be able to get off the restrictive purple tier.

Ferrer has said that L.A County could move into the next reopening stage as early as October if there is no new surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations associated with Labor Day weekend.

The county recorded another 13 deaths and 1,343 new cases Saturday, bringing the countywide total to 259,817 cases with 6,330 deaths, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

The county saw a steady decrease in number of new cases through August and September. Last week, the average daily number of cases was 800 — a major decline from over 2,000 a month ago.

Though the health department on Wednesday warned that the case number may be “artificially low” because of reduced coronavirus testing from the last two weeks — possibly due to testing sites closing for the holiday and then again because of bad air quality.

Data from the L.A. County Department of Public Health shows a dramatic decrease in the number of people tested for the coronavirus.
Data from the L.A. County Department of Public Health shows a dramatic decrease in the number of people tested for the coronavirus.

Daily reported COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have continued to decline.

There were 732 people hospitalized for COVID-19 Saturday — 31% of them in intensive care units. After a major surge in July that led to more shutdowns, the number of daily hospitalizations in L.A. County has returned to levels seen early in pandemic, at around 800 hospitalized each day.

In the days leading up to Labor Day, officials urged residents not to crowd beaches or gather at parties, warning people not to repeat the mistakes made during Memorial Day holiday and  Fourth of July weekend that led to a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

“Increases in cases in the past have resulted in more hospitalizations and more deaths,” Ferrer said. “Please do everything you can to plan your holiday activities to avoid transmission of COVID-19 by following the public health distancing and infectious control directives. We still need to lower the number of new cases so that all students can get back to school and more business sectors can re-open.”

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