As Los Angeles County continued its methodical reopenings, now including beach bike paths and parking lots, neighboring Orange County pulled into the fast-lane on Saturday, May 23, as Gov. Gavin Newsom approved the neighboring county’s request to reopen at an accelerated rate.
Amid residents’ recently rediscovered freedoms, L.A. County health officials reported 41 new coronavirus-related deaths and an additional 1,032 newly confirmed cases on Saturday. But there’s a silver lining, officials said, as they reported a steady decline in hospitalizations, deaths and the percent of people testing positive.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with those families and friends mourning the loss of their loved ones,” said the county’s Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, according to a Saturday news release.
Of the 41 residents who lost their lives, 31 were seniors over the age of 65 while eight were between the ages of 41 and 65. Most had underlying health conditions, including 23 seniors and five others between the ages of 41 and 65.
The afternoon statement did not include an update from Long Beach, which operates its own heath departments.
Pasadena also helms its own health department and reported a single new death on Saturday and 26 new cases. The city has now seen 831 cases and 80 deaths. Like the vast majority of Pasadena’s fatal cases, Saturday’s death was linked to one of the city’s elder care businesses, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.
County officials identified 44,055 positive COVID-19 cases and 2,090 deaths since the outbreak began.
More than nine-out-of-10 patients with an ultimately fatal case had underlying health conditions.
The county has demographic data for 1,929 of its coronavirus-related fatalities. Here’s the breakdown:
- 39% of deaths involved Latinx residents
- 29% involved white residents
- 17% involved Asian residents
- 12% involved African American residents
- 1% involved Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander residents
- 1% involved residents with another race
There are currently 1,491 residents hospitalized for the virus and roughly a quarter are in intensive care units while a little less than a fourth are on ventilators.
A total of 6,159 residents have been hospitalized since the outbreak began, though many have since recovered.
On Saturday, as beaches became more accessible and area bike paths were reopened, Ferrer noted the county was seeing “steady declines in hospitalizations, deaths and the percent of people testing positive.”
Ferrer said “the percent of people tested who are positive in L.A. County is now at an all time low of 8.5%. In comparison, New York City’s positivity rate is currently 28%.
“The increase we see in our number of cases is because we have increased the number of people we are testing, and this is a good thing. We are testing more people per capita in L.A. County than the state of California, the state of Washington, the state of Georgia, the United States” and Seattle’s King County.
Still, even as testing has increased, county officials recently said they were behind on planned systematic testing of the county’s elder care facilities and dialed back an initial promise of testing every single patient and employee. Instead, officials said they would do strategic surveillance testing in facilities with no outbreaks, but still require comprehensive testing for the facilities that have seen at least one case.
On Friday, county health officials issued a new health order, allowing for the reopening of beach bike paths and parking lots, while also permitting indoor mall curbside service and some vehicle parades. Gatherings are still banned and folks still aren’t allowed to go into any retail stores.
While beaches weren’t too crowded on Saturday, some anticipate more crowds deeper into the Memorial Day weekend.
Also on Friday, the Trump administration continued its campaign to pressure state and local governments to reopen, setting its sights on Los Angeles County and Illinois with a warning from the Justice Department, telling local officials to loosen “heavy-handed” stay-at-home orders.
The letter was sent to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and county officials, saying a long-term lockdown for city and county residents “may be both arbitrary and unlawful.”
The letter referenced recent statements from both Garcetti and Ferrer who have both recently stressed the possibility of extended stay at home orders. Ferrer has said the orders won’t be lifted until there’s a vaccine while Garcetti has said some kind of stay at home order will likely be in place for the next three months or so.