Officials with California's Department of Public Health had some good news for Californians on Monday with an announcement that the statewide regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders have been ended.
The order was lifted for all regions statewide, including the three regions that had been under the order - San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California. Health officials cited improving four-week ICU projections statewide as the reason for lifting the order. Counties will return to the color-coded tier system laid out under Gov. Gavin Newsom's 'Blueprint for a Safer Economy.' The majority of counties are still in the strictest, or purple tier.
With the order lifted, that means outdoor dining, as well as some services at gyms, barber shops and nail salons could resume. Most counties in the state would qualify for the "widespread" risk tier, which would allow salons to offer limited services, while restrictions remained on other types of nonessential businesses.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” said Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
Health officials said that while there were encouraging signs of COVID-19 infections slowing across the region, Californians should continue to wear masks while out in public, maintain social distancing of at least six feet, wash their hands frequently, and avoid gatherings and mixing with other households.
The announcement comes as Los Angeles County officials have ramped up vaccination efforts at the county's five largest coronavirus vaccination centers at Magic Mountain, the Pomona Fairplex, Cal State Northridge, the Forum in Inglewood and the County Office of Education in Downey.
Appointments can be booked at www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/vaccine/index.htm.
Those LA County residents who are given their first dose of the vaccine will also be provided with information on a follow-up appointment to receive their second dose. Email reminders will also be sent out to residents to remind them of their second dose appointment.
On Sunday, the county reported 8,243 new cases of COVID-19 and 98 additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 1,073,111 cases and 15,260 fatalities. There were 6,697 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in the county as of Sunday, down from 6,881 a day earlier. That number had reached a peak of more than 8,000 earlier this year.
While the state has lifted the regional stay-at-home orders, ICU capacity in Southern California remains at 0%.
Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have been urging patience among residents anxious to get a COVID-19 vaccination, with supplies remaining woefully short and the overburdened online reservation system leaving many people frustrated as they try to schedule appointments.
“We are also seeing a decline in hospitalizations and several other indicators we track, including test positivity rate, percentage of emergency department visits associated with COVID-19 and percentage of respiratory specimens positive for COVID at sentinel laboratory surveillance sites,'' said Dr. Paul Simon, the Department's chief science officer.
“However, despite these promising trends, I do want to emphasize that the numbers of cases, hospitalizations and deaths remain far too high,'' he said. “So while there's reason to be hopeful, we all must remain vigilant and continue to be disciplined, wearing masks, physically distancing when outside the home, avoiding gatherings and washing our hands frequently.''
Simon said the five sites -- each capable of administering 4,000 shots per day -- will be operating at much lower capacity this week, likely in the 2,000 to 2,500 range.
The county expects to receive about 143,900 more doses of vaccine this week. However, since people need to receive two doses of the medication, spaced three to four weeks apart, the bulk of the vaccine coming this week will be used to administer second doses to people who have already received the first shot. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer estimated earlier that only 37,900 of the new doses will be available for people to receive their first dose.
Simon said Friday that the most recent figures showed that 441,140 doses of vaccine have already been administered in the county, although he said that number is likely much higher due to delays in tallying vaccination totals. As of this week, the county had received about 853,000 total doses.
Simon said people should not look at those numbers and assume there are 400,000 unused doses in the county, noting again the lag in vaccination reports and the daily administration of doses. If the county's weekly allotment doesn't dramatically improve beyond the current average of about 150,000, “the vaccination effort will likely extend well into 2022,'' Simon said.
He said if the county can get its allocation increased to 500,000 per week, “we would have the potential to reach 75% of the adult population in the county, or 6 million adults, by mid-summer.''
In the meantime, he urged patience, saying, “We do understand how important it is to get vaccine out as quickly as possible.''
He said the state is upgrading its vaccine-appointment website, to which the county system is linked, so it should operate more smoothly this week.
The county also has a call-in reservation system, which is available from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 833-540-0473. But that line should be used only by people unable to use the website, since call volumes are already exceedingly high, Simon said.
Eight new cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) were reported Saturday. This brings the total cases of MIS-C in L.A. County to 62 children, one of whom has died. All 62 were hospitalized and 45% were treated in the ICU. Of the children with MIS-C, 31% were under 5 years old; 37% were between 5 and 11; and 32% were between 12 and 20. Latino/Latinx children account for nearly 74% of the reported cases.
MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19. Symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. If you believe your child is displaying MIS-C symptoms, contact your primary care or urgent care provider. Seek emergency care for critical or life-threatening conditions. If you do not have a primary care provider, dial 211 and L.A. County will help connect you to one.
Also Sunday, officials announced the planned opening of a pop-up COVID-19 walk-up testing site at Veteran's Memorial Park, 6364 Zindell Ave. in Commerce. The site will open Tuesday.
Tests are free and proof of medical insurance is not required. All on-site testing will be conducted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Jan. 26-30.
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