County and city COVID-19 numbers continue to decrease

Daily COVID-19 case numbers continued tumbling in Los Angeles County on Tuesday, but the death toll climbed above the 17,000 mark, with more than 200 new fatalities.

The county Department of Public Health announced 205 virus deaths, raising the countywide cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 17,057. Health officials noted that more than 7,000 COVID deaths have been reported over the past month, matching the total number of virus deaths that occurred between February and October of last year.

Long Beach reported 379 new cases and 13 new deaths, for a total of 679 fatalities and 48,638 cases since the start of the pandemic. The city’s case rate per 100,000 residents continued to drop on Tuesday with 55.9, down from 61.1 on Monday, while the percentage rate of people testing positive fell to 10%, down from 10.3%.

While fatalities have mounted in response to the winter surge of cases that began in November, the number of newly confirmed infections continued to fall. The county announced 3,763 new infections on Tuesday, down substantially from the early January totals that regularly topped 10,000.

Hospitalizations also continued a steady downward trend, with state figures showing a total of 5,165 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID, including 1,371 in intensive care. According to the county Department of Public Health, there were 830 available hospital beds as of Tuesday morning at the area’s 70 “911-receiving” medical centers, including 85 ICU beds.

The new COVID cases announced by the county raised the cumulative total since the pandemic began to 1,124,558.

Health officials have expressed cautious optimism about the declining daily case numbers and hospitalizations, but continue to warn that the pandemic could easily surge again if people grow complacent and stop adhering to health restrictions, particularly with the recent reopening of more businesses and with Super Bowl Sunday just days away.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health and human services secretary, warned Tuesday that although case rates and numbers are falling, they’re still “not low.” He noted that prior to the winter surge that began in November, several counties—including Los Angeles—were on the verge of emerging from the restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s economic reopening matrix, with daily new case rates dropping to nearly 7 per 100,000 residents.

But while numbers are declining, Los Angeles County’s adjusted case rate was listed at 38.7 per 100,000 residents as of Tuesday, five times the rate needed to move out of the “purple” tier.

“It’s just a reminder that COVID is still abound in our communities,” Ghaly said. “We’ve got to keep our guard up. How likely is it that we’ll see another surge? I think again it comes back to the behaviors and our own sense of personal choices and personal responsibility on this.”

Meanwhile county officials said Monday that as of late January, 7.9% of people in Los Angeles County had received at least a first dose of the vaccine, and the county had administered 79.8% of its supply. Ferrer said that as of last week, the county had received 991,375 doses of the vaccination, and 790,902 shots had been administered.

She acknowledged, however, that the limited availability of vaccine has dramatically slowed the overall effort. The county’s weekly allocations have varied greatly, but have been averaging around 140,000 doses. And of late, much of the new vaccine supply being received each week must be reserved to provide second doses to people who have already had the first shot.

Ferrer noted that more than 85,000 appointments at county vaccination sites have been reserved through Feb. 19 for second doses.

City News Service contributed to this report

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