As Covid-19 cases continue to decrease, L.A. County could reach the threshold to reopen schools for transitional kindergarten through grade six in two to three weeks, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
“The state set a threshold for counties that want to reopen all their elementary schools grades TK through grade six at new 25 cases or less per 100,000 residents,” said Ferrer. “We’re at 48 cases per 100,000 residents. I do believe it will take us two to three weeks to reduce that rate.”
If cases hit this threshold elementary schools will still need to meet stringent safety protocols and reach agreements with teachers’ unions in order to reopen. Under state guidelines secondary schools are not allowed to reopen until the County has less than 7 new cases per 100,000 residents.
On Monday L.A. County was released from the state stay-at-home order, giving the Public Health Department the ability to lift the ban on outdoor dining. According to Ferrer, directives on outdoor dining will be released late in the day on Thursday outlining the regulations restaurants must follow to reopen on Friday.
On Wednesday health officials reported 6,917 new cases and 307 additional deaths in L.A. County. The seven day new case average was 6,564 on Jan. 22, down from a peak of over 15,000 cases on Jan. 8.
Hospitalizations and death rates also continue to trend in a positive direction.
Hospitalizations peaked at 8,065 on Jan. 6 and dropped to 6,200 on Wednesday. Daily average deaths reached 151 on Jan. 19, down from 194 on Jan. 7.
In order to further bend the curve and reopen more sectors of the economy, health officials urged residents to continue following health directives and to especially avoid gathering for the Super Bowl.
“It will be tragic if the Super Bowl becomes a super spreader of Coronavirus for sports fans,” said Ferrer. “Please start planning now to find ways to enjoy the Super Bowl without putting your friends, your family, your neighbors and our community at risk.”
Recent data shows that even as cases decrease, Los Angeles’ Latino community continues to be disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.
On Jan 18. the seven day cumulative rate of new cases for Latinx residents was nearly 1,900 per 100,000 people compared to 795 for Black residents, 651 for Asian residents, and 616 for white residents.
Since the beginning of winter surge the 14 day average daily deaths for Latinx residents increased by over 1000 percent — from 3.5 deaths per 100,000 people in early November to 240 deaths per 100,000 people on Jan. 15.
“While every single race and ethnicity group in L.A. County has seen a horrendous increase in mortality rates, the gap between the experiences of those in our Latinx community and all others is frankly horrifying,” said Ferrer.
Disproportionate impacts also persist between socioeconomic groups. As of Jan. 18 people living in high poverty areas experienced roughly double the case rates as those in the highest resource areas and more than three times the death rates.
The Public Health Department is currently stepping up its efforts to provide medical support and vaccinations to individuals in the hardest hit communities.
“We have pockets where small numbers of people only have been vaccinated,” said Ferrer. “We use this information so that we modify our plans and make sure that we’re getting vaccines to communities that have lower vaccination rates and have experienced high rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.”
As of Monday 662,963 vaccine doses had been administered in L.A. County including roughly 544,000 first doses and 119,000 second doses. Ferrer said all residents are guaranteed a second dose and most people will be able to receive both doses at the same location.