Once again, this has been a very good week in COVID-19 pandemic news.
On Sunday, LA County reported no new deaths from COVID-19, while new infections and hospitalizations have also remained relatively low over the last week.
Our local area neighborhood numbers are up just a little bit…
…but county-wide sewage monitoring still shows a distinctive downward pattern over the larger area.
And statewide, California’s case rate continues to be the lowest in the nation.
All of which means that if things continue to go well for the next 24 hours, LA County is poised to enter the Yellow, “Minimal,” or lowest risk tier for transmission of the disease, which would allow more kinds of businesses to re-open indoor operations, and to increase both indoor and outdoor capacities at a wide variety of venues. According to a KABC-TV7 story yesterday:
“Los Angeles County is expected to reach the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy when updated statistics are released on Tuesday.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said if the county does qualify for the move, a new health order with more relaxed restrictions will be published Wednesday, taking effect Thursday.
Entering the yellow tier will primarily allow higher capacity limits at most businesses. Fitness centers, cardrooms, wineries and breweries, for instance, would be permitted to increase indoor attendance limits to 50%, up from the current 25%; bars would be able to open indoors at 25%; outdoor venues such as Dodger Stadium could increase capacity to 67%, up from the current 33%; and amusement parks could allow 35%, up from 25%.”
LA County did not report new vaccination numbers this week (it only reports those every other week, and this is an off week), but the CDC did issue new guidelines this week, saying that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in small groups outdoors, only in outdoor crowds, and indoors where unvaccinated people are present.
A slightly less positive note was sounded today, however, as the New York Times reported that because of slowing vaccination numbers, and a persistent segment of the population resistent to vaccinations, we likely will not achieve the long-discussed “herd immunity,” and new COVID-19 variants will probably continue to haunt us for the forseeable future.
Finally, in LA public school news this week, optimism is also the prevailing tone. According to LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner in his weekly address this morning, all LAUSD campuses are now open again, and school playgrounds are also re-opening today…though the number of students choosing to return to in-person instruction is higher so far in more well-to-do areas, and smaller in lower income and less privileged neighborhoods, which creates significant equity issues.
On a more positive note, however, Beutner reported that LAUSD continues to be the largest COVID-19 testing organization in the LA area, administering about 1/4 of all local tests, or about 20,000 per day. Beutner said that with 90% of people on most campuses being unvaccinated children, “the safest thing to do is test everyone, children and adults, before they start school and regularly thereafter. And that’s exactly what we’re doing at schools in Los Angeles Unified.”
Beutner also said that in the last week, 21 students and 7 staff members who had returned to campus tested positive for COVID-19, but the district’s contact tracing team was able to reach the people they had come into contact with, and the individuals involved will not return to campus until they test negative again.
Finally, Beutner noted that LAUSD is also doing its part in the vaccination effort, with 11 school-based vaccination centers now open in “neighborhoods most impacted by the virus.” The centers not only help community members who may not have easy transportation to other more distant vaccination sites, he said, but also help district high school students ages 16-18 get vaccinated easily. And Beutner said the district will continue to provide vaccinations, not only for younger children when they become eligible, but even further down the road if/when booster or seasonal shots may be necessary.