L.A. City and County COVID-19 Weekly Update (November 2, 2020)

CA Health and Government COVID-19 Guidance: Week in Review

A New COVID-19 Surge

As noted last week, Los Angeles County is experiencing a new surge in COVID-19 cases. Last Monday, October 26, 2020, the County passed a 300,000-case threshold and 7,000 total deaths. In a press release, the County noted rising case rates:

Since early October, Los Angeles County’s average number of daily cases has increased from around 940 per day to almost 1,200 per day. Additionally, recent contact tracing interviews over the course of 3 weeks showed that 55% of the people who knew of a possible exposure had attended an event or gathering where 2 or more people were sick.

The County called this rise “cause for concern.” On the same day, California passed 900,000 total cases for the first time.

On Tuesday, October 27, 2020, L.A. County Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer presented updates to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In her remarks, Dr. Ferrer highlighted the rising COVID-19 rate in the county:

  • The daily case rate is now 8 cases per 100,000 residents, or over 800 cases per day.
  • In the previous week, the rate was 7.6 cases per 100,000 residents.
  • Test positivity rate increased to 3.7% from 3.4%. 
  • The County’s equity measure also went up from 5.9% to 6.2%.

Dr. Ferrer indicated to the Board of Supervisors that if the County experiences a reduction in the current rate of community spread, it is at least 3-4 weeks from moving to Tier 2 of the State’s Blueprint. A transition to Tier 2 would allow for the continued easing of existing restrictions (such as capacity limits). As of Monday, November 2, 2020, the County remains in Tier 1, the most restrictive tier.  

At a press conference on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, Dr. Ferrer again addressed the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the county. She indicated that this rise coincides with the reopening of several business sectors and celebrations of the recent Lakers and Dodgers championships. As discussed below, also on October 28, 2020, the County reported that the regional infection rate and case counts are trending upward.

County Director of the Department of Health Services Dr. Christina Ghaly also spoke at the press conference on Wednesday, October 28, 2020, and noted that despite the current increase in cases, the County’s estimated transmission rate has dropped back down below 1, to 0.95, and that current hospitalization trends appear stable, with an adequate supply of beds, ventilators and equipment.

In a press release on Thursday, October 29, 2020, the County reported 1,745 new cases and noted that this was the highest number of new cases reported in a single day since late August.

Education

The County continues to increase school capacity, which is a focus of the Board of Supervisors and the Department of Public Health.

The County has now raised to 25% capacity the limit on in-person instruction for high-needs student populations at schools, the maximum allowed for counties in Tier 1. As of Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 1,017 schools have reopened for in-person instruction for high-needs students (68% public, 18% charter, 14% private), representing almost 35,000 students and over 20,000 staff.

An additional 25 schools have been approved for waivers (29 total waivers have now been issued), and the County is continuing to process the remaining 124 current applications. Dr. Ferrer also announced that there has been a change to the waiver application process, which now allows for applications with letters of support or attestations of consultation with main stakeholders (such as parents, teachers, staff and community-based organizations). Dr. Ferrer noted that there has been very high compliance with COVID-19 safety regulations (over 90% compliance at approximately 700 site visits), and while there have been a small number of cases in schools, the County has not seen any outbreaks tied to schools.

Testing

On Friday, October 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom visited the Los Angeles area to unveil an innovative new laboratory to rapidly process COVID-19 tests.

The lab, built in conjunction with PerkinElmer, a publicly-traded diagnostics company working with both California and the United Kingdom to enhance their COVID testing capabilities, at a cost of $25 million, will begin processing tests starting in November and work toward full capacity of 150,000 tests by March 2021. Under the contract for the lab, PerkinElmer is required to turn around test results in 24-48 hours.

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