LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Again pointing to plummeting COVID-19 case numbers among skilled nursing facility residents and staff -- who were among the hardest hit in the early days of the pandemic and then were the first to get vaccinated -- Los Angeles County health officials said the facilities are a case study on the effectiveness of the inoculations.
“Where we see high rates of vaccination, we are seeing transmission of COVID-19 plummet,'' county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Wednesday. “Each person that is vaccinated has the best protection against COVID-19.
“Throughout the pandemic individuals have taken actions, like masking and distancing, that have protected not only themselves but protected others,'' she said. “Getting vaccinated is no different. Not only are you protecting yourself, you are doing your part to stop transmission and prevent hospitalizations and deaths. While millions of county residents are fully vaccinated, we still have a way to go to get to a level of vaccinations that will make COVID-19 no longer a threat. Encourage your family and friends not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated.''
According to the Department of Public Health, 83% of skilled nursing facility residents and staff have received at least one dose of vaccine, and the vast majority of them have received both doses. During the week of April 17, nearly 45,000 COVID tests were performed among all staff and residents at such facilities, with only about two dozen positive results.
That compares to more than 2,500 positive tests among nursing facility residents and staff the last week of December.
Los Angeles County on Wednesday reported 31 more COVID-19 deaths. Long Beach health officials added two more, noting that the fatalities actually occurred two months ago. The new fatalities lifted the overall total from throughout the pandemic to 23,833.
Another 341 cases were reported by the county, while Long Beach added 14 and Pasadena four, lifting the cumulative total since the pandemic began to 1,232,391.
According to state figures, there were 410 people hospitalized in the county as of Wednesday, up slightly from 408 on Tuesday, with 105 people in intensive care, down from 110 on Tuesday.
Weekly state statistics released Tuesday showed the county's daily rate of new COVID-19 cases had fallen just low enough to qualify for a move to the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state's economic-reopening blueprint, but the county must meet the threshold for another week before it can actually advance.
For now, the county remains in the orange tier of the state's Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which governs restrictions on businesses and other activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to state figures, the county's adjusted seven-day average rate of daily new COVID-19 infections fell to 1.9 per 100,000 residents. Moving to the yellow tier requires a rate of less than 2 per 100,000.
If the county keeps the rate below 2 for another week, it will officially advance to the yellow tier. The state requires counties to meet all thresholds for two consecutive weeks before advancing to a less-restrictive tier in the blueprint.
The county has met the other thresholds required for moving to the yellow tier for several weeks -- its seven-day average testing-positivity rate is now 0.9%, and the positivity rate in low-income, hard-hit communities is 1.0%.
Moving to the yellow tier would mean a further easing of capacity restrictions at businesses, gatherings and events, both indoors and outdoors. Fitness centers, cardrooms, wineries and breweries, for instance, would be permitted to increase indoor capacity to 50%, up from the current 25%; bars would be able to open indoors at 25%; outdoor venues such as Dodger Stadium could increase capacity to 67%, up from the current 33%; and amusement parks could allow 35%, up from 25%.
As of Tuesday, only four of the state's 58 counties were in the yellow tier -- Alpine, Mendocino, Sierra and Lassen.
The bulk of the state, including all of Southern California, is in the orange tier.
The county is continuing to offer appointment-free, walk-up COVID vaccinations at all of its large-scale sites through Thursday. The appointment-free shots, contingent on supply, are available at:
-- Palmdale Oasis Recreation Center, 3850 E. Avenue S;
-- The Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood;
-- Balboa Sports Complex, 17015 Burbank Blvd., Encino;
-- College of the Canyons, 25000 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita;
-- Cal State Northridge, 18343 Plummer St.;
-- Eugene Obregon Park, 4021 E. First St., Los Angeles;
-- Pomona Fairplex, 2370 E. Arrow Highway, gate 15; and
-- L.A. County Office of Education, 12830 Columbia Way, Downey.
Doses are available for anyone age 16 and over, although teens age 16 and 17 must be accompanied by an adult.
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