Coronavirus Los Angeles: County could advance to California’s COVID-19 red tier by October, allowing gyms, movie theaters to reopen


LOS ANGELES (KABC) — More businesses in Los Angeles County could be allowed to reopen in October as downward trends in COVID-19 cases and testing-positivity rates could allow the county to move into the next tier of the state’s economic-reopening system, according to the county’s public health director

However, Labor Day numbers could potentially thwart that move.

The county is in the most restrictive, or “purple,” level of the state’s four-tier virus-tracking roadmap. The county already has a low enough seven-day average testing positivity rate — around 3.2% — to move to a less-restrictive tier, but average new case numbers are still too high, currently averaging 8.1 cases per 100,000 residents. The state threshold for advancing to the “red” tier is seven cases per 100,000.

However, Public health director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday numbers in all categories have been trending downward over the past six weeks following a spike seen after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

“If we don’t see a surge in cases and hospitalizations associated with activities over Labor Day and we continue to reduce our rate of community transmission over the weeks ahead, we could enter tier 2, which is a less restrictive tier, sometime in October,” Ferrer said.

Health officials have said repeatedly they will not consider any more business reopenings in the county until at least late September, after determining if virus cases and hospitalizations increase following the Labor Day holiday weekend — the way they did after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

If the county gets its average new case numbers below seven per 100,000 residents, and maintains that level for two weeks, the county will be able to move into the state’s “red” tier. That would allow more businesses to reopen, including potentially movie theaters and gyms, as well as school campuses for in-person learning.

Ferrer said the county is now seeing its lowest average testing-positivity rate of the pandemic.

“Last week, we saw the lowest positivity rate to date, at around 3.4%,” she said. This means that almost 97% of the tests that people took for COVID-19 ended up being negative. Just a month ago, in mid-August, this rate was around 5%. So we’re happy to see the progress that we’ve made and we’re very much hoping that this number continues to decrease.”

She again warned, however, that the impact of the Labor Day holiday weekend has yet to be borne out in case numbers, since the virus has a 14-day incubation period. She also said upcoming fall and winter holidays, including the start of Rosh Hashanah this weekend, could lead to setbacks if people become lax about social distancing and other preventive measures.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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