Dr. Darien Sutton’s first thought when a woman in her 30s showed up in his Los Angeles County hospital emergency room this week with a fever, racing heart rate, and a sore throat was that she had COVID-19. However, after taking the necessary precautions and performing tests, it was discovered that the patient had a simple urinary tract infection.
“It was so shocking because, at the end of the day, I was like, ‘I forgot there are other things that cause fevers, chills and sore throat.’ You had to stop and remember other infections are now coming back,” said Sutton.
The interaction was yet another sign that COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County are continuing to fall dramatically. On Sunday and Monday, the county of more than 10 million people reported no COVID-related deaths, and the number of new infections fell to 255, the lowest since the pandemic began more than a year ago.
The county public health department’s numbers from Tuesday showed 18 deaths and 273 new cases, putting an end to the hopeful streak of zero-death days. According to county officials, the county’s daily test-positivity rate as of Monday was a pitiful 0.7 percent. According to the most recent data, there are only 386 people in the county who have COVID-19.
The county was the epicenter of the pandemic in January, with over 300 deaths and 12,000 to 17,000 new cases per day. Overburdened hospitals were admitting approximately 7,000 new COVID-19 patients per day, necessitating the installation of tents outside Sutton’s emergency room to triage the influx of infected patients.
During the pandemic, Los Angeles County was far and away the most affected in the country. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the county had more than twice as many confirmed cases (1.2 million) as the second-highest in the country (Maricopa County, Arizona; 538,633) and more than twice as many deaths (23,943) as the second-highest in the country (Kings County, New York; 10,180).
According to the most recent state data, LA County is now eligible to advance to the least-restrictive yellow COVID-19 tier in California’s reopening framework, according to health officials on Tuesday.
According to LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, new health orders with fewer restrictions are expected to be published on Wednesday and to go into effect on Thursday.
Most businesses will be able to increase capacity limits under yellow tier status. Fitness centers, card rooms, wineries, and breweries, for example, would be permitted to increase indoor attendance limits from 25% to 50%; bars would be permitted to open indoors at 25% capacity; outdoor venues, such as Dodger Stadium, would be permitted to increase capacity from 33% to 67%; and amusement parks would be permitted to increase visitor volume from 25% to 50%.
Sutton attributed the region’s rapid recovery from the COVID-19 crisis earlier this year to a combination of factors, including the easy availability of testing, county residents’ willingness to practice social distancing and mask wearing, and the county’s aggressive push to get people vaccinated.
“I just got an alert yesterday on my phone — the same alert that you get when there’s a missing child, the one that goes on everyone’s phone — and it was just letting people know that you can get a vaccine anywhere in all these locations,” Sutton said.
According to county health officials, more than 8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered to people across LA County as of April 30, including more than 3 million who are fully vaccinated.
“With an abundance of vaccine available, our efforts are now focused on making it as simple as possible for everyone 16 and older to get their vaccine,” county health officials said in a statement.
Sutton also stated that he has been encouraging young adults to get vaccinated, explaining that while vaccine participation is increasing across the county, it has decreased among young adults.