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L.A. County COVID-19 Deaths Rise; Eateries Struggle to Meet Health Protocols

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Another 19 fatalities due to the coronavirus were announced in Los Angeles County today, moving the county closer to the 3,000 mark in total deaths, while nearly 1,100 new cases of COVID-19 were also confirmed.

With the new deaths, the county's overall number of fatalities due to the virus rose to 2,926. With 1,071 new cases, the county's total grew to 73,791.

The numbers of new deaths and confirmed cases are typically lower on Mondays and Tuesday as figures are compiled from the weekend.

Despite rising case and fatality numbers, county officials said they still remain confident moving forward with economic recovery efforts, although some businesses -- most notably newly reopened dine-in restaurants -- are struggling to comply with mandatory protocols such as social distancing and limited capacity.

The county's public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said inspectors visited 2,000 restaurants over the weekend, and half of them were "still not in compliance" with health requirements.

"They'll be revisiting all of the restaurants that were not in compliance and issuing them an order to come into compliance," Ferrer said. "We've been doing a lot of education, but starting this week we're actually going to revisit places where we noted that people still had concerns, they had confusion, they hadn't quite made the changes. There should be no places where tables are right next to each other. They either need a six-foot (separation) or a physical barrier. Those are requirements in the protocols.

"... We're really working hard with our restaurants," she said. "I want to note that 50% of the restaurants we visited were in complete compliance, which is way up from where we were the first weekend. So I want to thank all those restaurants that are in fact doing their very best to adhere to the protocols and put in place those measures that offer safety."

County officials have continued to stress the need for residents to continue practicing social-distancing and wearing face coverings when mixing the public. They have warned that reopening more businesses is not a sign that the coronavirus pandemic has receded or disappeared, but reopening the economy is essential.

"We're trying to balance public health with getting people back to work," County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. "Because we know it's not an 'either-or,' it's got to be an 'and.' We want to be driven by industry, recognizing that Dr. Ferrer and her team will help us ensure that people are doing the social distancing and everything is in place at each business to ensure that people are protected.

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"So it's a constant balancing act, for sure, and there's no perfect science," she said. "But I know in L.A. County we want it to be both industry and public health driving that narrative moving forward, and we've done it in a very slow, deliberative fashion to make sure that we are, again, balancing the public health needs with getting people back to work."

The county has formed a task force of leaders from major industries, and that panel has helped develop reopening guidelines for those sectors. That task force is scheduled to meet again Tuesday.

In reporting the latest case figures, Ferrer said one more homeless person has died from COVID-19 in the county, raising the total to 16. A total of 16,554 cases -- 22% of the overall county total -- have occurred in institutional settings, most notably skilled nursing facilities. There have been 1,541 deaths in such institutions, 89% of them in nursing homes.

Ferrer also gave an update on coronavirus cases among health care workers and first responders, reporting a total of 6,561 such cases, up 530 from last week. A total of 44 L.A. County health care workers have died from the virus, an increase of five since last week. Of those 44 workers, 32 worked in skilled nursing facilities or assisted living centers.

She said the county has seen 329 reported cases of coronavirus among pregnant women, and of 48 infants tested at birth, none had the virus. Ferrer said new mothers who tested positive for the virus should be able to breast- feed their infants.

"Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants," Ferrer said. "We do not know yet conclusively whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk, but the limited data available suggest that this is not likely to be a source of transmission. Whether and how to start or continue breast feeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and her health care provider."\

 

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