County making progress on COVID-19 case rate; residents warned to be cautious ahead of Labor Day weekend


By Tammy Murga and Emily Alvarenga

County Public Health officials reported Wednesday the rate of infection per 100,000 residents has dropped by 50% in the past month — from 400 cases per 100,000 residents to fewer than 200 — while offering a caution to the public ahead of Labor Day weekend. 

While the county has met five out of the six requirements to get off the state’s watch list, the county has still not met the 14-day case rate threshold of below 100 cases per 100,000 people. The current rate is 198 cases, according to Public Health. 

“If you look back at our data, you’ll see two to three weeks after Memorial Day, we started seeing a spike and, two to three weeks after July 4, we had our biggest spike,” said county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer during a county broadcast. “We’re concerned that people may, in fact, forget how important it is to still modify everything we do and avoid those gatherings, if we want to keep community-transmission rates down.”  

No closures, such as at beaches and parks, are expected, but residents are expected to continue practicing physical distancing and wearing face masks, Ferrer said. 

A day after announcing a tally of fewer than 1,000 cases for the first time since June, Public Health officials reported Wednesday 1,642 new COVID-19 cases, which brought the total to 235,386 total. The death toll grew to 5,663 after a reported 58 new deaths. 

Hospitalizations, which reflects what happens in the broader community, continue to drop countywide, according to county Health Services Director Christina Ghaly. Daily hospitalizations peaked at 2,200 patients in mid-July. On Wednesday, Public Health reported 1,186, with 32% in the ICU. 

CDC testing guidelines 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted its COVID-19 testing guidelines Monday, saying asymptomatic individuals do not need to get tested for the virus. 

“You do not necessarily need a test unless you are a vulnerable individual or your health care provider or state or local public health officials recommend you take one,” the CDC said on its website. 

L.A. County continues to recommend that close contacts of those who have tested positive get tested, “(a)s we know people who are infected with COVID-19 can be asymptomatic and can potentially infect others,” said Ferrer. 

Statewide updates

Wednesday’s county updates come as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new partnership with PerkinElmer to add up to 150,000 diagnostic COVID-19 tests per day, with a 24- to 48-hour guaranteed turnaround time. 

“This provides us the ability to have much more stability and … more reliability to people that are at risk, (such as) essential workers, to address the issue of the supply chain constraints that we think will only grow, not diminish, into the flu season, to provide some insurance against what we refer to as the ‘Twindemic’ of flu and COVID season, to provide guarantees in terms of turnaround time for results, and ultimately to drive down the cost for everybody,” Newsom said during Wednesday’s state briefing.

Right now, each COVID-19 test costs an average of $150-$200, and through this partnership, Newsom expects those costs can drop to $47.99 per test for 40,000 tests, with the potential to drop to $30.78 per test for 100,000 tests.

This comes as Newsom said the state’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases, along with hospitalizations, has continued to decline, with case rates going from 6.1% to 5.8%. 

Newsom also announced that new guidelines for the reopening of schools and some businesses are expected to be released Friday, though he did not clarify any further. Ferrer said the county would closely review the new guidelines and that “we’re not ready to open up our waiver process for schools.” 

SCV breakdown 

In the Santa Clarita Valley, 36 COVID-19 cases were reported in the past 24 hours, of which 30 came from the city of Santa Clarita, two each in Castaic and Canyon Country, and one each in Acton and Stevenson Ranch.

Henry Mayo’s latest figures released Wednesday, showed a total of 6,598 patients had been tested since the start of the pandemic — many of whom are tested more than once — with 774 of those testing returning positive, while 7,552 were negative and four remain pending, according to hospital spokesman Patrick Moody. A total of 232 have been discharged and 11 people remained in the hospital for treatment, he added.  

The number of SCV cases, including all area health care providers’ daily figures and those at Pitchess Detention Center, totaled 5,263 as of Wednesday, broken down into region as follows: 

City of Santa Clarita: 2,881

Unincorporated – Acton: 59

Unincorporated – Agua Dulce: 24

Unincorporated – Bouquet Canyon: 6

Unincorporated – Canyon Country: 114

Unincorporated – Castaic: 1,893 (majority of Castaic cases come from Pitchess Detention Center, exact number unavailable)

Unincorporated – Lake Hughes: 2

Unincorporated – Newhall: 6

Unincorporated – Placerita Canyon: 0

Unincorporated – San Francisquito Canyon/Bouquet Canyon: 0

Unincorporated – Sand Canyon: 5

Unincorporated – Saugus: 26

Unincorporated – Saugus/Canyon Country: 1

Unincorporated – Stevenson Ranch: 147

Unincorporated – Val Verde: 59

Unincorporated – Valencia: 40

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