LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County's rate of new COVID-19 infections has increased slightly compared to last week, according to figures released by the state, keeping the county firmly entrenched in the orange tier of California's economic-reopening blueprint.
According to weekly state figures released on Tuesdays, Los Angeles County's seven-day average daily rate of new COVID-19 cases was 3.2 per 100,000 residents, a slight increase from 3.1 over the past two weeks.
In order to advance to the less-restrictive yellow tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the county must reach an average daily case rate below 2 per 100,000 residents and then maintain that rate for at least two weeks. That means Los Angeles County is now guaranteed to remain in the orange tier until at least late April.
The county's rate of people testing positive for the virus also held steady from last week, at a low 1.5%.
Reaching the yellow tier would allow a further loosening of health restrictions, including additional capacity at most businesses.
“We have moderate transmission in L.A. County, so it remains necessary to continue taking steps to prevent increases in cases to keep our recovery from stalling,'' county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “One important tool for reducing transmission are vaccines.''
Ferrer said that while the county is adhering to federal warnings and pausing use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, residents are still urged to get either the Pfizer or Moderna shot.
“We are grateful to the researchers and scientists working to ensure that all medications or vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, meet the highest safety standards," she said.
The city of Los Angeles expanded its vaccine eligibility Tuesday to residents age 16 and over. Appointments for the vaccines at city sites can be made at https://carbonhealth.com/covid-19-vaccines/los-angeles. Although the sites are operated by the city, they are open to any Los Angeles County resident.
The city sites now include the vaccination center at Cal State Los Angeles, which until Sunday was being operated by a partnership between the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. That federal partnership, which was an eight-week pilot program, ended Sunday, and the city agreed to take over operation of the site to ensure continued access to vaccines in the area.
In addition to CSULA, the city also operates sites at San Fernando Park, Hansen Dam, Crenshaw Christian Center, Lincoln Park, Pierce College, USC University Park, Los Angeles Southwest College and Dodger Stadium.
All sites will be open Tuesday through Saturday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Dodger Stadium will be offering appointments only until 1 p.m. this week from Tuesday through Thursday to accommodate home games, although the site will remain open until 4 p.m.
Los Angeles County-operated vaccination sites will not expand to people 16 and over until Thursday, when the state officially lowers the eligibility age. The state's MyTurn.ca.gov website is expected to be adjusted Wednesday to allow everyone 16 and older to make appointments for vaccinations.
Ferrer noted this week that people age 16 and 17 can receive only the Pfizer vaccine, because it is the only one approved for people that young, so teens will have to make appointments at sites that offer that specific shot.
The county this week received an allocation of 323,470 doses of vaccine, a drop of roughly 80,000 from last week, due to a major reduction in supply of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine. Los Angeles County only had an allocation of about 19,600 J&J doses this week -- a small percentage of the overall supply.
The county reported an additional 23 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, while Long Beach announced two more, bringing the cumulative county death toll during the pandemic to 23,500.
Another 448 cases were also reported by the county, with Long Beach adding 29 and Pasadena two, pushing the overall pandemic total in the county to 1,226,627.
According to state figures, there were 493 people hospitalized due to COVID in Los Angeles County as of Tuesday, up from 471 on Monday, with 126 people in intensive care, up from 116 a day ago.
The county's Health Services director, Dr. Christina Ghaly, noted Monday that the hospitalization numbers may actually be artificially high. She said people who may have been infected with COVID weeks ago but are now being hospitalized for completely unrelated reasons might still be testing positive for the virus, and thus categorized as a COVID patient.
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