LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles County reported 313 new cases of COVID- 19 and no additional deaths Sunday, though officials said those low numbers likely reflect reporting delays over the weekend.
According to state figures, the number of coronavirus patients in county hospitals dropped from 410 on Saturday to 390, with 87 people in intensive care, up from 86 the previous day.
Sunday's figures brought the county's totals to 1,233,772 cases and 23,915 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
As of Saturday, the county's test positivity rate was at the lowest level of the pandemic at 0.6%.
The county has further eased its COVID-19 health restrictions, allowing indoor playgrounds and arcades to reopen at limited capacity, while lifting restrictions on operating hours for bars, breweries and wineries.
Indoor arcades and playgrounds — such as laser tag businesses, ball pits or "bounce" centers — are restricted to 25% of capacity, along with other mandated safety modifications.
Bars, which are currently allowed to operate outdoors only, had been restricted to operating hours of 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., but those restrictions are now lifted.
On Monday, playgrounds at all Los Angeles Unified elementary schools and early education centers will reopen. District personnel will use electrostatic misters and approved disinfectant to regularly sanitize playground equipment, the same procedure used to clean frequently touched surfaces in a school, according to Superintendent Austin Beutner.
Only one group of students will be allowed to use the playground at a time, and students will be encouraged to wash their hands after using the equipment.
The easing of restrictions comes amid continued concern about the slowing pace of vaccinations in the county.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer again stressed the urgency for people to get inoculated, while also continuing to adhere to other health guidelines to prevent a resurgence of the virus locally.
"Getting vaccinated in L.A. County is easier and more accessible than ever before and we encourage everyone waiting to get vaccinated to take advantage of the opportunity as soon as possible," Ferrer said. "There continues to be much higher risk of COVID-19 transmission among unvaccinated people. As more L.A. County residents and workers are vaccinated, the risk of transmission of variants is significantly reduced and we get back to the many activities that we loved to do before the pandemic."
The health department also reported a continuing reduction in the number of cases in the homeless community on Saturday. Since the peak of 684 weekly cases reported during late-December, case numbers among people experiencing homelessness substantially dropped to 59 new cases last week, officials said.
The county is expected to reach the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state's four-tier Blueprint for a Safer Economy when updated statistics are released on Tuesday. Ferrer said if the county does qualify for the move, a new health order with more relaxed restrictions will be published Wednesday, taking effect Thursday.
Entering the yellow tier will primarily allow higher capacity limits at most businesses. Fitness centers, cardrooms, wineries and breweries, for instance, would be permitted to increase indoor attendance limits to 50%, up from the current 25%; bars would be able to open indoors at 25%; outdoor venues such as Dodger Stadium could increase capacity to 67%, up from the current 33%; and amusement parks could allow 35%, up from 25%.
The county also revised its health order last week to incorporate changes in mask-wearing guidelines recommended last week for fully vaccinated people by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The revisions also state that surveillance COVID testing is no longer recommended for fully vaccinated people, unless they work at skilled nursing facilities or other high-risk settings, are traveling internationally or are required by a particular business or facility.