File Photo. Kit Karzen

The COVID-19 daily positivity rate continues to decline but Los Angeles County health experts said Monday they are still unsure when the region will move into the next phase of reopenings.

Director Barbara Ferrer and her peers at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have reported a steady decrease in the number of new coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but officials reiterated Monday there is a need for more data from Labor Day Weekend before they can accurately say the worst of the pandemic has passed.

Last week’s case counts were on the rise again, according to Ferrer, who noted Monday how freely people interacted with each other during the most recent holiday weekend. As a result, the health department is looking every day to see if there is any indication that L.A. County will again see a surge in the numbers of COVID-19 cases.

“We’ve had a troubling trend the last few days of last week, and we think, in fact, that could allow us to not be able to make movement into tier two in the upcoming couple of weeks,” Ferrer added after detailing how the daily case rate in the county must drop significantly if residents hope to see the region enter the red tier of the state’s reopening plan.

“We saw some lower numbers back in the earlier part of September,” but the county has reported more than 1,000 new cases per day, Ferrer said, “which makes it hard for us to get into tier two at this point in time.”

After reporting 652 new cases and 16 deaths resulting from COVID, Ferrer said the numbers reflect the weekend’s data so the statistics may be a bit inflated compared to a normal weekday.

“We’ll need to look at Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday’s case data here to see whether that increase continues or are we actually stabilized,” she added. “The county saw big surges in positive COVID tests about two to three weeks after Memorial Day. And we saw that again… two to three weeks after July.”

This is why officials have been cautious, according to Ferrer. Because when you see an increase in cases, “that’s when you know — another week or two later — you’ll start seeing an increase in hospitalizations, and then that often is followed by, unfortunately, an increase in deaths. So, I want to be cautiously optimistic but we did have four days of data last week that showed increases in cases, so we’re going to have to pay a lot of attention to the data this week.”

Ferrer concluded the briefing stating she expects the department to have a much better sense of current transmission rates by the end of this week but officials are adamant everybody, whether they’re at-risk or not, should continue being diligent in the coming days.

Brennon@smdp.com