Associated Press
Thursday, May 21, 2020

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Los Angeles County’s death toll from the coronavirus passed 2,000 on Thursday even as other figures pointed to progress in slowing the spread of the disease.

The largest county in California recorded 46 more COVID-19-related deaths for a total of 2,016. That represents about 60% of all virus-related deaths in California.

“This is a very sad milestone for us,” Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said at a daily news briefing.

However, Ferrer said the average recent rates of hospitalizations and deaths in the county are decreasing and one study suggests the rate of COVID-19 prevalence didn’t rise between March and April. The county has seen more than 42,000 cases.

Authorities have indicated that unlike most counties, L.A. won’t be able to meet the state requirements to accelerate the reopening of its economy by allowing currently prohibited activities, such as dining inside restaurants.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has been relaxing some of the strict stay-at-home requirements he instituted in March that have shuttered most businesses and thrown the economy into a tailspin. With millions filing for unemployment benefits, there has been a growing push by counties to move more quickly towards reopening even as polls show general support by the public in general for stay-at-home orders.

Newsom this week announced relaxed standards for measuring a county’s success against the virus. Meeting the marks allows a county to request approval from the state to reopen more businesses and recreational activities.

Large counties had complained that a provision of the original standards that required no deaths from the virus for two weeks meant only smaller counties would be approved. That requirement was removed and many large counties are now among those that have been cleared to move farther ahead into the second of four stages for full reopening.

Fresno and San Joaquin were among the latest counties approved Thursday, bringing the total to at least 43 of the state’s 58 counties. San Diego County, the state’s second most populous county, won approval Wednesday.

Another large Southern California county - Orange - submitted its reopening plan to the state Thursday, said Michelle Steel, chair of the county’s board of supervisors. The move came as the county reported 14 deaths, its highest number in a single day. Ten were residents of skilled nursing facilities, Steel said.

In the Orange County city of San Clemente, eight people were arrested at a demonstration against Newsom’s stay-at-home orders. The Sheriff’s Department said the arrests occurred during a protest near the pier that drew 200 people.

Those arrested are being investigated for activities including vandalism and trespassing, the department said.

In Northern California, Sacramento County’s top health official. Peter Beilenson reversed his approval from earlier in the week allowing fitness centers to reopen and for groups of up to 10 to gather, the Sacramento Bee reported. Beilenson said state officials told him it’s too early for those higher-risk elements of reopening.

Sacramento County will go ahead with plans to begin allowing restaurant dining on Friday.

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