The number of new coronavirus cases confirmed in Santa Monica hit a record low last week.

Eight cases were reported between Saturday, May 17 and Sunday, May 23 — a steep decline from the more than 30 cases reported in each of the two previous weeks. As of Tuesday, the city’s total number of cases had reached 256 and the death toll stood at 17, with three deaths reported last week.

Outbreaks at Santa Monica nursing homes also seem to have stabilized, with just six staffers and five residents testing positive for the virus last week. To date, 124 residents and 64 staff at seven local nursing homes have been diagnosed, and 27 have died.

But the falling numbers of new cases don’t preclude cases from starting to climb more rapidly in the future. Los Angeles County officials started allowing some retailers to open for pickup and reopened beaches a little more than two weeks ago, and it typically takes about one to two weeks for people infected with coronavirus to display symptoms of COVID-19.

The line graph of local infections updated daily on the city of Santa Monica’s website looks more like a staircase than a hill. Since the outbreak began, there have been three periods when the curve appeared to flatten before the number of confirmed cases started rising again.

Between April 1 and 30, 106 new cases were reported in Santa Monica. Since May 1, another 92 cases have been confirmed. If three more cases were confirmed each day for the remaining five days of the month, the total number of cases reported in May would be nearly identical to that of April.

And if the results of Los Angeles County’s recent serology test can be applied to Santa Monica, at least 2,000 residents — 2% of the population — could already have contracted coronavirus. Serology tests determine whether an individual has developed antibodies to the virus.

To date, the L.A. County Department Public Health has identified 47,822 cases of COVID-19 and 2,143 deaths across all parts of the county. Ninety-three percent of people who died had underlying health conditions, and 47% resided in nursing homes.

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 has dropped from an average of 1,700 to 1,443 over the last three weeks, officials said Tuesday.

More than 514,000 people have been tested and 8% tested positive. As of Friday, 157 nursing homes have tested all residents and staff and an additional 68 plan to complete testing out of more than 400 such facilities in the county.

“As improved infection control practices and testing have increased over the last month, deaths among residents in nursing homes have dropped from 174 deaths for the week ending May 2, to 60 deaths for the week ending May 23,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a press release Tuesday.

The current county health officer order that replaces the previous health officer order allows for the reopening of beach bike paths and parking lots, indoor mall curbside service and select vehicle parades, according to the press release. Beach piers remained closed.

Public and private gatherings of any number of people outside of a single household unit are still not permitted.

madeleine@smdp.com

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