Public Health: LA County’s tighter restrictions aim to reduce crowding and exposure

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Stricter COVID-19 restrictions that will take effect Friday — such as reducing indoor and outdoor capacities at restaurants and retail shops — in Los Angeles County amid a surge in diagnoses and hospitalizations aim to reduce crowding and exposures, Public Health officials said Wednesday. 

At the same time, the county announced nearly 4,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest one-day total since July.

“We are focused in two areas: reducing the possibility for crowding and reducing the potential for exposures in settings where people are not always wearing face coverings,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. 

On Tuesday, the department released a list of tightened pandemic safeguards such as a mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., limiting occupancy to 25% maximum capacity at indoor locations such as retail stores and offices, and 50% at outdoor places like restaurants and breweries. Outdoor gatherings remain the only gatherings permitted, and they must only include 15 people maximum who are members of no more than three households. 

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, reiterated Tuesday these amendments to the county health officer order do not equate to a curfew or lockdown. 

“I understand that there’s been some confusion over the past couple of days, but I’d like to clarify that this is not a curfew or lockdown but a precautionary measure,” she said. “I want to emphasize that, ultimately, 95% of businesses that have reopened have been in compliance with public health guidelines. However, we are implementing these precautions to help prevent ongoing transmissions.” 

The tightened restrictions come as officials also announced 3,944 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday and a test positivity rate of 7.1%, which has increased from the 5.1% on Nov. 8 and 3.9% on Nov. 1 — evidence that community transmission is increasing, said Ferrer. 

Hospitalizations, which Ferrer said is “the most reliable” metric in understanding how the county is doing in reducing transmission, are also on the rise. On Nov. 1, the average number of people hospitalized marked 791. Two weeks later, that figure rose to more than 1,010 and as of Wednesday, admissions approached 1,100. In September, the county saw about 100 new cases daily of people who needed to be hospitalized. Today, that number is closer to 200, according to county Health Services Director Christina Ghaly. 

As of Wednesday, the county had sufficient hospital bed capacity, including at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, according to spokesman Patrick Moody, who said, “We are not even close to capacity.” 

A total of 20 people were reportedly admitted to the local hospital, he said. 

Ghaly warned that hospitals will have to switch gears, discharging patients who don’t require hospital-level care and returning to canceling non-essential surgeries, should figures continue to rise. Henry Mayo Chief Clinical Officer Larry Kidd said the hospital is prepared and equipped. 

“We are constantly monitoring our COVID patient census. We are confident in our ability to care for an increase in patients, should it occur, as, if necessary, we can prepare additional rooms for these patients,” Kidd said in a statement. “Furthermore, we participate in a statewide hospital network that helps direct patients to hospitals where beds are available. Collectively, we are prepared (to) manage a surge in patients should we experience one.”

The county’s five-day average is 2,884 cases daily and if that number rises to 4,000 or more, restrictions would limit restaurants and breweries to pickup and delivery services. If numbers increase to 4,500 or more a “Safer at Home” order would return for three weeks. 

With that in mind, officials are steering residents back to the basics — face coverings, social distancing and handwashing. 

“What we did in the past worked, but we need to renew our commitment, and our diligence and slowing the spread of COVID-19 and the restrictions that are in place,” said Ferrer. 

L.A. County Department of Public Health officials released the following updated COVID-19 figures Wednesday:

Countywide COVID-19 cases reported in the past 24 hours: 3,944

Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 348,366

New deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the past 24 hours: 36

Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 7,335

Hospitalizations countywide: 1,188; 27% of whom are in the ICU.

Hospitalizations at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital as of Nov. 18: 20, with 348 discharged since the onset of the pandemic.

COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 114, 92 of which came from the city of Santa Clarita.

Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 8,481

Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV: 80

The numbers of SCV cases, including all area health care providers’ daily figures and those at Pitchess Detention Center, broken down into region, are as follows:

City of Santa Clarita: 5,303

Unincorporated – Acton: 98

Unincorporated – Agua Dulce: 55

Unincorporated – Bouquet Canyon: 15

Unincorporated – Canyon Country: 196

Unincorporated – Castaic: 2,288 (majority of Castaic cases come from Pitchess Detention Center, exact number unavailable)

Unincorporated – Lake Hughes: 9

Unincorporated – Newhall: 31

Unincorporated – Placerita Canyon: 0

Unincorporated – San Francisquito Canyon/Bouquet Canyon: 3

Unincorporated – Sand Canyon: 7

Unincorporated – Saugus: 45

Unincorporated – Saugus/Canyon Country: 12

Unincorporated – Stevenson Ranch: 249

Unincorporated – Val Verde: 113

Unincorporated – Valencia: 57

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