People relaxed in Ocean View Park on Saturday under a dense marine layer. (Madeleine Pauker)

Seven new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Santa Monica over the weekend as people rushed to beachfront parks but stopped short of venturing onto the sand.

Los Angeles County officials urged residents to avoid beaches, which have been closed since late March, amid a weekend heat wave. Although Palisades Park is fenced off, Ocean View Park remains open to the public and saw plenty of sunbathers, picnickers, cyclists and rollerbladers over the weekend.

Many visitors wore masks and most attempted to keep six feet away from other clusters of people, although some inevitably came close to each other as they threw a football around or played with their children. Santa Monica Police Department officers patrolled the area in cars, occasionally stopping to speak with visitors.

On Monday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer reiterated the need for physical distancing and said the county will begin relaxing some parts of its Stay at Home order if it sees a decrease in cases next month.

“I owe you all a debt of gratitude for staying the course and staying home,” she said.

The number of cases in Santa Monica rose 24% over the last seven days, reaching 154 Monday. The week before, cases rose by 35%.

The first two weeks of April showed the same pattern of quick growth followed by slower growth. Cases rose by 76% from March 30 to April 6 and 24% from April 6 to April 13.

On Monday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer confirmed 900 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the county to more than 20,000. Nearly 1,850 people are hospitalized, 28% of whom are in the ICU and 15% of whom are on ventilators.

The number of people experiencing homelessness who have tested positive grew from 100 last week to 118 Monday. Ferrer said 68 people were sheltered and 12 shelters are under investigation.

Ferrer confirmed 29 new deaths Monday and 18 Sunday, numbers well below the 40 to 50 deaths officials have confirmed each day for the last three weeks.

Twenty-five people whose deaths were reported Monday were older than 65 and three people who died were between 41 and 65. Nineteen people had underlying health conditions, including 18 people older than and one person between 41 and 65.

Of the 942 people who have died from COVID-19 since the outbreak began, 92% had underlying conditions.

Thirty-seven percent of people who have died were Latino, 28% were white, 18% were Asian, 14% were African American, 1% were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 1% identified with other races.

Ferrer said African Americans and people who live in poor communities are dying at the highest rates.

The death rate for African Americans is 13.2 per 100,000 people. The death rate is 9.8 for Latinos, 7.9 for Asians and 5.7 for whites.

In areas with a high proportion of people living in poverty, the death rate is 16.9 per 100,000 people — triple the rate of affluent communities.

Ferrer said called the data “deeply disturbing” and said it speaks to a need for immediate actions in communities with disproportionately high death rates, including increased access to testing, healthcare and information about COVID-19.

Forty-five percent of COVID-related deaths have occurred in institutional settings, mostly in nursing homes, Ferrer said.

In Santa Monica, 10 people who resided in nursing homes have died from COVID-19. It is unknown if any were Santa Monica residents.

Seven died at The Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica and three died at Beachwood Post-Acute & Rehab, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

At the Rehabilitation Center, Beachwood, and three other institutional settings in Santa Monica, a total of 55 residents and 31 staff have tested positive. The county last week adopted a policy of testing both symptomatic and asymptomatic staff and residents of facilities with outbreaks.

Across the county, 11 people who died from COVID-19 worked in a healthcare setting, including eight people who worked in nursing homes, Ferrer said Monday.

One thousand nine hundred and sixty-eight confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred among healthcare workers and first responders in 24 healthcare facilities in L.A. County, she said. Eight percent have been hospitalized,.

Forty-three percent of cases are among nurses, 5% are among physicians and 5% are among caregivers, receptionists, patient services, medical assistants, first responders and people working in administration.

Thirty-five percent worked in hospitals and another 35% worked in nursing homes.

A little more than half do not know or did not report how they were exposed, and 40% report being exposed in a healthcare facility.

“The increases in deaths represent our family members, friends and neighbors including front-line essential workers, who have passed away from COVID-19. To all who are grieving, you are in our thoughts and prayers, and we are so sorry for your loss,” Ferrer said in a statement. “Healthcare workers are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they put themselves at risk everyday so that we all can receive excellent care. We owe them a debt of gratitude and the protection and equipment they need to do their jobs safely. They are our heroes.”

madeleine@smdp.com

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