LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County has reported 1,326 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 additional deaths, as public health officials continued to warn residents not to gather with others outside their household.
"The stakes are high since our case numbers have already been steadily increasing for the past two weeks," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. 'We can't really afford to repeat what we went through after the July 4th holiday when we saw surges in cases followed by alarming increases in hospitalizations and deaths."
The county has now recorded 307,618 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, with 7,071 fatalities.
The number of people hospitalized in the county because of the coronavirus increased from 743 on Friday to 783 Saturday, with 28% of those people in intensive care, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
One of the 15 deaths reported Saturday was from Long Beach, which has its own health department. Of the other 14, all but one had an underlying health condition. Five were over the age of 80, seven were between the ages of 65 and 79, one was between 50 and 64, and one was between 30 and 49.
Health officials have said the county had been averaging about 940 new cases a day at the beginning of October, but is now averaging about 1,200 a day.
Los Angeles County remains entrenched in the most restrictive "purple" tier of the state's coronavirus economic-reopening matrix. Until the daily case numbers drop to a steady average of about 700 per day, the county will be unable to substantially lift business restrictions or allow school campuses to reopen.
The county had reached that benchmark in September, raising hope it might advance to the less-restrictive "red" tier, but it was unable to maintain those case levels.
Health officials have said younger residents represent the bulk of new cases being reported, and they pointed directly to public gatherings -- particularly groups of people coming together to watch sporting events either in private settings or at outdoor restaurants -- as responsible for the case increases. Beyond just the recent Lakers and Dodgers championship playoff runs, health officials pointed to the start of football season as another factor attracting larger crowds at eateries with television sets.
All bars remain closed in the county, and no spectators are permitted at sporting events, such as Rams and Chargers games at SoFi Stadium.
Another concern is the possibility of spread at large demonstrations, such as those for racial justice and involving the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, where people often come into close contact with each other amid shouting and chanting.