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Health Officials: County Making Progress in Virus Fight, Despite Deaths, Cases

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - As more businesses reopen, Los Angeles County health officials today offered assurance that local indicators tracking the pace of coronavirus were continuing to decrease or hold steady, but they again stressed the importance of wearing face coverings to prevent COVID-19 from spiking.

"I get a lot of questions about why this is important, especially from individuals who are not worried about becoming infected themselves," public health director Barbara Ferrer said. "The important issue here is that we're not asking you to wear the face covering to protect yourself. We ask you to cover your mouth and nose to protect others, especially since you can be infected with COVID-19 and have no symptoms of illness.

"... Even if you tested negative, that negative test result only tells you your status the day you were tested," she said. "You could easily become infected the very next day and unknowingly pass COVID-19 onto others.''

Ferrer's comments came one day after Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated that Californians wear face coverings in virtually all settings outside the home. Los Angeles County has had a similar mandate in place since mid-May, while the city of Los Angeles requires masks at all times outside the home.

Some opponents of mask requirements, particularly in Orange County, have loudly protested that they are an imposition on personal freedom, and incite fear among the populace, preventing people from visiting local
businesses.

But Ferrer stressed the urgency for people to wear the masks anytime they are associating with people outside their own households, saying it will prevent a reversal of downward trends in coronavirus spread. And she said it will ensure that businesses can remain open.

The county on Friday reported another 38 deaths due to the coronavirus, lifting the county's total to 3,063. The county also recorded another 1,414 confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the overall total to 79,609.

While the numbers of deaths and cases continued to rise, Ferrer outlined statistics showing that key indicators of the virus' spread -- most notably the rate of deaths and hospitalizations -- were trending in the right direction.

She noted that the county's seven-day average of deaths has been declining since mid-April, and said the average number of daily deaths has dropped from 45 or 46 in early May to between 20 and 30 now.

Hospitalization rates also steadily declined and have plateaued, she said. She noted that there has been a slight increase in hospitalizations in the past few days, but that could be a result of hospitals testing everyone who comes into the facility, regardless of why they are there.

Ferrer said county officials will be keeping close watch on the hospitalization numbers.

But she also noted that the availability of hospital rooms and ICU beds is adequate to handle demand, and hospitals have sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

Ferrer said those indicators are all used when county officials decide whether to allow more businesses to open. The county's health order was relaxed Friday morning, allowing businesses such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, bars, casinos and spas to reopen.

"The most important data continues to be looking at our death data and our hospitalization data and our rate of positivity,'' she said. "As I just showed you, all of the indicators really point to the fact that we are fairly stable, and that we in fact continue to slow the spread of COVID-19. ... As we reopen, we need to be particularly careful to do everything we can, both individually and as businesses, to make sure our environments are as safe as possible. If we continue to do that, we'll continue to have success on the re- openings.''

The rate of people testing positive for the virus was 8% as of Friday, a number that has remained largely unchanged for weeks.

Ferrer said if any of the key indicators begin rising, the county will have to consider whether to reimplement restrictions.

"We cannot overwhelm the health system," she said.

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