County averages 4,442 new COVID-19 cases over 4 days, putting it on brink of new closures

County health officials on Saturday reported 4,522 new cases of COVID-19, continuing a trend of dramatically rising case loads that are on track to lead to far stricter measures intended to keep people from spreading the virus.

The county has now seen 17,769 new cases over the past four days, with close to 1,400 people hospitalized as of Saturday—a quarter of whom are in the ICU. That averages out to 4,442 new cases per day over the past four days—meaning Sunday’s results could be crucial in determining whether the county enacts new restrictions.

Health officials have said if the five-day average of cases is more than 4,000, they will restrict restaurants, breweries and bars to take-out and delivery service only. If the five-day average exceeds 4,500, they’ve promised to institute a stay-at-home order for at least three weeks. The order would only allow essential workers and those securing essential services to leave their homes.

Twice last week, the county reported more than 4,500 new cases, peaking on Thursday with a record-breaking 5,031 infections.

LA County health officials showed this slide at a media briefing on Friday.

“We have to change the alarming increases in cases and hospitalizations and get back to slowing the spread to avoid overwhelming our hospitals and save lives,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the county department of public health, said in a statement Saturday.

Long Beach officials have not said if they’ll follow the county’s lead on those restrictions. The city can chart its own course because it has its own health department, but in they past, local officials almost always followed suit within a few days, sometimes with minor differences in the rules.

“As always, we will continue to work with our partners at the state and county and make decisions based on science and data,” city spokesman Kevin Lee said Sunday morning.

Long Beach has reported just shy of 15,000 cases since March, with the rate of new cases also skyrocketing this week. As of Friday the city reported an average of 18.4 new cases per 100,000 residents, up from 6.5 cases per 100,000 residents one month ago.

If new county restrictions do arrive, Ferrer has said businesses would be given several days’ warning before they’re enacted.

A new curfew imposed by the state for Los Angeles and 40 other counties seeing a widespread outbreak of the virus will go into effect tonight at 10 p.m. The restriction requires people not on essential errands to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Dec. 21, with a possible extension if rapidly worsening trends don’t improve. People will be allowed to shop for groceries, pick up food and even walk their dogs.

The county also enacted stricter rules for nonessential businesses, including limiting capacity in outdoor dining settings to 50% and limiting capacity at indoor retail stores to 25%.

All nonessential businesses will also be closed for service between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Delivery, takeout and pickup is still allowed after 10 p.m.

Authorities say the focus is on keeping people from social mixing and drinking — the kinds of activities that are blamed for causing COVID-19 infections to soar after dipping only a few months ago.

Dr. Mark Cullen, an infectious disease expert who recently retired from Stanford University, said the underlying goal is based on a reasonable interpretation of data.

“Large numbers of people getting together oblivious of controls — no masks, no social distancing, often indoors — a lot of those things are in fact occurring at night,” Cullen said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7:43 p.m. It was later updated with more information and context.

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Melissa has been a journalist for over two decades, starting her career as a reporter covering health and religion and moving into local news. She has worked as an editor for eight years, including seven years at the Press Telegram before joining the Long Beach Post in June 2018. She also serves as a part-time lecturer at Cal State Long Beach where she teaches multimedia journalism and writing.
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