Public health officials hailed “tremendous progress” in the fight against COVID-19 and loosened travel guidance as Los Angeles County advanced into the orange level of the state’s reopening plan Monday.
The changes come amid a 97% drop in the number of new cases of coronavirus reported each day. The seven-day average of new cases is now just under 400 a day compared to 14,200 new cases daily on Jan. 5, County Director Barbara Ferrer said in a news briefing.
“This is equivalent to the daily number reported a year ago in late March, right at the start of the pandemic,” she said.
Admissions have also dropped by 92% since the beginning of this year, and the number of daily deaths has dropped by 92% from 252 deaths a day to just nine, according to Ferrer.
On Monday, officials reported 366 new cases and one death, noting that the number is likely to be lower than they are due to the usual delay in weekend reporting.
The changes announced Monday for the county̵
In mirroring the CDC rules, travelers who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to be tested or quarantined when they return to LA County.
Those who are not fully vaccinated must be quarantined for seven days if they get a negative test result, or 10 days if they are not tested on arrival, officials say.
All travelers must still be quarantined if they begin to show signs of illness. And in general, non-essential travel is discouraged, especially given the increasing incidence of hotspots nationwide and significant risk from more infectious coronavirus variants, Ferrer said.
“Travel is always associated with additional risks,” she said.
The public health director also warned that concerns about a fourth coronavirus wave in some places and new variants pose a threat to LA County.
“We will have to continue to follow public health safety measures until more people are vaccinated if we are to hold on to our gains,” Ferrer said, “especially as we move into the orange level.”
The county has received nearly 400,000 vaccine doses to be administered this week, including 118,000 of the Johnson & Johnson shot.
Ferrer said it is the largest dose of dose the county has received yet, but “unfortunately, LA County still does not receive enough doses for our capacity.”
Once Angelenos is once again fully vaccinated, Ferrer expects infections to drop further.
She pointed to a drop in cases at county nursing homes where 80% of residents and 81% of staff are vaccinated. There were only 14 confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff and residents in the week of March 23, a decrease of approx. 99% from the beginning of January.
“The dramatic drop is excellent evidence of how powerful a tool vaccines are,” Ferrer said.
This week, more than 100,000 doses – or 26% of the county’s allocation – will go to health centers and clinics serving the communities hardest hit by the pandemic, and another 54,000 will go to mobile vaccination efforts in those neighborhoods, Ferrer said.
The county is also set to receive $ 15 million in state funding to increase vaccinations in vulnerable areas, “thanks to the county’s continued cooperation with the governor and Blue Shield,” county superintendent Hilda Solis announced at Monday’s briefing.
Grants of $ 250,000 to $ 500,000 will be given to clinics, community and faith-based organizations, home health agencies and mobile vaccinators to deploy resources and build their vaccine capacity, Solis said.
“This funding will go a long way toward building the necessary infrastructure to close the racial and ethnic health inequalities that this pandemic has made clear,” she said. “And as we approach April 15 with all adults in the county being eligible for the vaccine, it is more important than ever that programs are in place to ensure that everyone has equal access to the vaccine.”
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