Los Angeles County officials Friday announced prerequisites that must be met before the lifting of stay-at-home orders.
“We are developing a plan to slowly ease restrictions under the condition of some important prerequisites,” L.A. County Board of Supervisors chair Kathryn Barger said. “This will not happen all at once, but in stages when our public health experts deem it appropriate and safe.”
The four key benchmarks that must be achieved before restrictions are lifted include increasing capacity in the health care system; ensuring protections for people at risk; increasing capability to test, isolate and trace the virus; and maintaining physical distancing.
“We don’t want to undo all the good we’ve done and accomplished so far,” Barger said. “We are not yet on the other side of this pandemic and we don’t want to prematurely ease restrictions that can overwhelm our hospitals and unnecessarily put lives at risk.”
Officials also announced that there will be a new health officer order for all licensed congregate health care facilities to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and to protect vulnerable residents and employees.
Starting Monday, the order will require all staff and residents at nursing homes to be tested for the virus even if they don’t show symptoms. Facilities with more severe outbreaks will be prioritized, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, but testing will become available for every facility in the county.
The long-term care facilities will also be required to limit entry only to essential employees; suspend communal dining and activities; ensure that staff always wear surgical masks and use personal protective equipment when appropriate; and require that residents wear facial coverings anytime they are outside of their personal room.
There are 5,339 people in such institutional settings across the county who have tested positive for COVID-19, including 3,847 residents and 1,492 staff as of Friday. The large increase in the number of positive residents is because the county has stepped up testing at the facilities, Ferrer said.
L.A. County reported 1,035 new cases Friday, bringing the total to 18,517 positive cases. With 52 new deaths reported Friday, the total fatalities reached 848.
Of all COVID-19 patients in the county who have died from the virus, 91% had underlying health conditions, according to Ferrer.
Among both staff and incarcerated individuals, there are 115 confirmed cases in county jail facilities, 93 cases in state prison, 85 in federal prison and 11 among only staff at juvenile facilities.
Over 108,000 people have been tested for the virus throughout the county, with 15% coming back positive for COVID-19.
Ferrer encouraged anyone with symptoms to get tested and said it only takes a few minutes. She assured residents that the information is confidential and the result is only released to the person and their health care provider.
The briefing comes after Ferrer said Thursday that the respiratory illness is now the leading cause of death in the county.
Despite a potential budget crisis in which the county could lose billions of dollars due to the pandemic, the county’s Department of Health Services said it would not have any layoffs or a reduction in workforce.
Amid a heat wave, the county activated 10 cooling centers Friday and Saturday that will be open from noon to 6 p.m. and will follow social distancing and safety measures.