L.A. County on brink of additional restrictions with more than 4,500 new coronavirus cases

Another round of distressing case numbers has Los Angeles teetering on the brink of further restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus — including the likely shutdown of outdoor restaurant dining.

County data released Saturday evening revealed 4,522 new cases; the average daily count over the last four days is 4,442. If the average remains higher than 4,000 on Sunday — which seems all but certain — the outdoor dining restriction is set to be reinstated for the first time since May.

And Los Angeles public health officials have set another threshold if the five-day average reaches 4,500: It will trigger a new stay-at-home order that would generally allow only essential workers and people securing essential services to leave their homes.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 also continued to climb Saturday, with 1,391 people admitted at facilities around the county, nearly double the average daily number in early October. About a quarter of those COVID-19 patients are in intensive care units.

Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer renewed her call for the county’s 10 million residents to remain home as much as possible, maintain social distancing and follow other safety protocols.

“We have to change the alarming increases in cases and hospitalizations,” Ferrer said in a statement, “and get back to slowing the spread to avoid overwhelming our hospitals and save lives.”

The county health chief also acknowledged the fatigue people are feeling, as restrictions on businesses and public gatherings stretch into a ninth month.

“Although this pandemic seems like it will never end, I assure you that it will,” she said, thanking the public for staying the course.

The latest COVID numbers confirmed another grim trend: Young people are driving the increased community transmission across the sprawling county, and older people are dying at much higher rates.

More than 72% of the new cases reported Saturday were in people under 50, while 91% of the deaths were those older than 50. Of the 34 county residents who died of COVID-19 on Saturday, 15 were over 80, according to the new report.

County officials have warned about the interventions that would come with spiking case counts and hospitalizations. Coronavirus cases began to surge in late October, sending officials scrambling to get the rise under control. The county has already ordered restaurants and nonessential stores to close their doors to the public at 10 p.m. and to limit capacity during business hours.

The rest of California mirrored the unhappy trajectory, with an unprecedented increase in new coronavirus cases. For the first time, the state saw three days over the last week with more than 13,000 new daily infections. Hospitalizations statewide also spiraled upward.

The uptick prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to issue a modified stay-at-home order that prohibits most nonessential activity outside the home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in counties that are in the most restrictive, purple, tier of the state’s four-phase reopening plan.

Roughly 94% of the state’s population lives in purple counties, including all of Southern California. The governor’s order was slated to take effect Saturday at 10 p.m. and remain in place through Dec. 21.

A protest against the restrictions was set to take place Saturday at 10:01 p.m. at Huntington Beach Pier. The day before, Orange County reported 1,169 new coronavirus cases — its highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic.

On Saturday, Orange County reported 806 new cases and 11 related deaths, bringing its total to 69,142 cases and 1,551 deaths. Officials cautioned that lower case counts over the weekend could reflect maintenance of the state’s reporting system, not a true decline.

There were 365 confirmed coronavirus patients in Orange County hospitals on Friday. The three-day average number of hospitalized patients is up 54.1%, the county said.

San Bernardino County reported its highest one-day total of new cases on Saturday, with 2,873. There were two deaths. Hospitalizations were also on the rise there, with 509 patients on Friday, an increase of 157% from a month before.

Times staff writers Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money and Sean Greene contributed to this report.

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