Los Angeles County’s daily coronavirus case numbers continued to decline Sunday, but health officials remained concerned about the recent detection of more contagious variants in the region and the potential for Super Bowl gatherings to trigger another surge.
The county’s Department of Public Health announced 3,123 new coronavirus cases and 89 related deaths, some of the lowest numbers reported in recent days. The numbers of daily hospitalizations and the positivity rate — a seven-day average — also have declined steadily in the last week. But health officials cautioned that the decline in both categories may be due in part to reporting delays.
To date, more than 1.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been reported among county residents, including 464,000 in the city of Los Angeles. Sunday’s announcement pushes the total number of deaths in the county since the start of the pandemic to nearly 20,000.
Despite the recent declines in coronavirus figures, officials remain concerned because the trends are still higher than pre-surge levels earlier this year, and they continued urging residents to avoid exposing friends, family members and co-workers to the disease.
Another concern is the rise of the more contagious and possibly deadlier strain of the coronavirus first identified in Britain, B.1.1.7, that has seen considerable growth in San Diego County, which has already probably resulted in one death there and at least 137 confirmed cases.
Besides San Diego County, the U.K. strain has also been identified in Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Alameda and San Mateo counties, including among two students at UC Berkeley who recently came into the U.S. from abroad.
Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s director of public health, said she was worried that Super Bowl Sunday parties could turn into potential superspreader events. She urged residents to remain vigilant, connecting virtually or watching the game with members of their immediate household.
The county’s Department of Health Services, which runs a network of hospitals and clinics, released a video on Twitter urging residents to act responsibly during the Super Bowl. The video promoted the #nosuperspreadersunday hashtag on Twitter.
“Any Super Bowl player will tell you the best offense is strong defense, so do your part this weekend and score a win for L.A. County,” said Sandra Pineda, a clinical pharmacist with the county.
Under the county’s latest restrictions, private gatherings are limited to 15 people — from no more than three households. They are also required to be outdoors, and anyone attending should wear masks and keep their distance from others. Restaurants, which were allowed to reopen for outdoor dining last week, are prohibited from having televisions available for patrons.
“Despite seeing some decreases, we continue to experience widespread community transmission in our county,” Ferrer said ahead of the weekend’s festivities.
COVID-19 vaccine supply remains limited, with those currently eligible being healthcare workers, nursing home residents and people over 65. For information about vaccines in L.A. County, visit the public health department’s website.
Meanwhile, Orange County health officials reported 1,187 new coronavirus cases and 46 additional deaths on Sunday, bringing the county’s totals to 238,264 cases and 3,358 fatalities.
Times staff writers Luke Money, Sean Green and Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.