LOS ANGELES (CNS) - More than 600 new cases of COVID-19 and 48 additional deaths were reported in Los Angeles County today, as high temperatures put a strain on beach and park restrictions enacted to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Public health officials announced 607 new cases in the county, which has now seen 19,107 cases of COVID-19 and 895 deaths. Ninety-two percent of people who died had underlying health conditions, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Twenty-nine deaths have been reported in both Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.
With temperatures rising into the 90s in many areas of Southern California, officials were reminding the public that beaches and parks remain closed throughout Los Angeles for the weekend. Officers with the Los Angeles Police Department, including some in the mounted patrol unit, were fanning out to enforce the order at local beaches Saturday.
The Santa Monica Police Department was also patrolling its beach Saturday, and officials there said citations would be issued if necessary.
“These closures are part of protecting the public's health and help avoid a steep rise in COVID-19 cases like the country has seen in New York City. Currently, LA County is experiencing a more gradual increase in cases as a result of the stay at home orders and physical distancing,” Santa Monica officials said. “Residents can go outside for a walk or to a local park, but everyone is encouraged to stay close to home as much as possible.”
“For those who are grieving loved ones lost to COVID-19, please know you are in our thoughts and prayers every day,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county's director of public health. “With this weekend's high temperatures, I encourage everyone to take steps to stay cool while still practicing physical distancing and adhering to Safer at Home directives.
“This past week in L.A. County, we doubled the number of deaths from COVID-19 and diagnosed more than 7.00 new cases,” Ferrer continued. “Because we are still seeing a significant increase in new cases and deaths, we ask that you continue to stay home as much as possible. Enjoy the outdoors safely by taking walks by yourself or with your household members near your home and always remaining at least 6 feet apart from others. ... This is how we get to the other side of the outbreak and begin our recovery.”
Much larger crowds were seen at beaches in Orange County, where the public was not strictly prohibited from visiting the sand.
Orange County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Carrie Braun said county beach parking lots are closed, but not the beaches.
“It's an effort for people to stay in their neighborhoods,” Braun said. “We're taking an education approach first and volunteer compliance. No reports of any large-scale issues.”
The continuing increases in cases and deaths in nursing homes prompted the county's health officer Friday to issue a revised order applicable to all licensed “congregate health care,” or long-term care, facilities, Ferrer said.
The order bars non-essential visitors to such facilities, allowing only essential workers to enter.
“It suspends all communal dining and activities ... to make sure that there's ample distancing among the residents who reside there,” Ferrer said. “Staff will be required to always wear surgical masks and to use personal protective equipment when it's appropriate. And residents will also need to wear surgical masks or cloth face coverings when they're outside of their personal room.”
She said the increased testing that will begin Monday is also part of the new health order, but those plans were announced previously due to the continued increase of cases and the knowledge that people who are unknowingly infected can spread the disease even if they have no symptoms.
The increased testing of all nursing home residents and workers, regardless of symptoms, is being done in conjunction with the city of Los Angeles. Ferrer said facilities with the most severe outbreaks will be given top priority, but all of the homes will get the increased tests.
Nursing homes have been a concern since the outbreak began, given the close confines of the patients and staff. This week, members of the California National Guard were deployed to four nursing homes in the county to assist with operations, mainly due to a lack of adequate staffing as a result of the virus' spread.
“We didn't request the National Guard, but we requested help,” Ferrer said. “And the National Guard was great. We did ask the state to help us with staffing. The easiest thing for them to do was deploy the National Guard and we're extraordinarily grateful that they did. And they continue to provide us with support.”
As of Saturday, nearly 114,000 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the county, with 15% testing positive, Ferrer said.
Included in the county's cases are at least 100 homeless people, the majority of them due to an outbreak that remains under investigation at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles. Ferrer said the county is still awaiting some test results from the facility.
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