LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles County reported 5,925 new cases of COVID-19 and 124 additional deaths Sunday, bringing the county's totals to 1,116,892 cases and 16,770 fatalities.
The county's COVID-19 hospitalization rate continues to decline, with 5,328 coronavirus patients hospitalized as of Sunday, down from 5,669 the day before, and 27% of those patients in the ICU.
The county's hospitalization rate has been dropping steadily since it peaked at more than 8,000 in early January.
The latest numbers came one day after health officials confirmed the second local case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 first discovered in the United Kingdom, and four additional cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
The B.1.1.7 specimen, submitted by a clinical facility, was sequenced as part of routine surveillance by the county's Public Health Laboratory. The first confirmed case of B.1.1.7 was logged on January 16, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Officials believe the B.1.1.7 and other variants are already spreading in the county, and they are continuing to test samples. B.1.1.7 is considered more contagious, but not necessarily more deadly, than the original strain of COVID-19.
The four additional cases of MIS-C bring the total number in the county to 66 children, including one child death. All 66 children with MIS-C in L.A. County were hospitalized and 44% of the children were treated in the ICU. Of the 66, 32% were under the age of 5, 38% were between the ages of 5 and 11, and 30% were between the ages of 12 and 20.
Latino children account for nearly 74% of the reported cases, the department said.
MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19, and symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.
Meanwhile, outdoor dining returned to the county Friday after a two- month shutdown, but with a new restriction forcing restaurants to turn off or remove all televisions from customer seating areas -- a clear effort to prevent gatherings of sports fans.
The county's revised Health Officer Order also reinstates previous restrictions on outdoor dining, requiring servers to wear masks and face shields, limiting restaurants to 50% of patio capacity, limiting tables to no more than six people from the same household and requiring tables to be at least eight feet apart.
But the order also states: "Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off. This provision is effective until further notice."
The provision is directly aimed at preventing gatherings of sports fans, particularly with the Super Bowl approaching on Feb. 7.
"We really do need to be cautious as we move forward, given we have a major sporting event," county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. "We've seen lots of people together shouting, yelling, screaming during the excitement of a game. We want to make sure that as we do these re-openings we can see the impact, and as we move forward, if things continue to get better we may be able to change some of the restrictions that are there.
"But right now we have to ease into these re-openings," he said. "We want to see these cases continue to come down, our hospitalizations continue to come down. ... But that depends on everybody doing what's right to prevent being infected with the virus. So at this point we are easing our way into this and want to see how our numbers continue to trend and we'll make changes as we see how we continue to do."
Speaking directly about the upcoming Super Bowl, Davis added: "This should be a virtual get-together, just like many of you celebrated the holidays with just your immediate family present. ... Make this a virtual event. ... Play it safe and don't organize a party at home."
"Although some restrictions were just lifted in our county, we are still in a very dangerous period in terms of cases, hospitalizations and deaths," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday. "We all want our businesses currently operating to remain open and more to reopen safely in the future. Our case rates must continue to come down. One way to do that is for everyone to follow all of the public health recommendations and directives all of the time. Because some sectors have re-opened, it doesn't mean that the risk for community transmission has gone away; it hasn't, and each of us needs to make very careful choices about what we do and how we do it. This virus is strong, and we are now concerned about variants and what these will mean in our region."
Restaurants reopened for outdoor service earlier this week in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.