As COVID-19 cases fall, L.A. County public health officials urge vigilance as holidays approach

Los Angeles County public health authorities on Saturday continued to report a drop in coronavirus case numbers but urged people to remain cautious when traveling or socializing during the upcoming holidays, saying that transmission of the virus remains widespread and is increasing in other states.

The county recorded 700 new cases of the coronavirus and 23 related deaths. There were 669 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals as of Friday, a decline of nearly 30% from two weeks before.

Still, officials said, it’s best to celebrate Easter, Passover, spring break and other holidays virtually, or to limit gatherings to members of the same household. A travel advisory remains in effect for L.A. County, and residents are supposed to stay within 120 miles of their home unless they’re traveling for essential purposes.

Indoor gatherings of up to three separate households are permitted by public health rules, provided there’s mask-wearing and distancing if participants aren’t fully vaccinated, but such activities still carry risk, officials said.

“We are so close, perhaps only several months away from having enough people vaccinated to accelerate our reopening without adverse effects,” Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director, said Saturday in a statement. “However, we remain quite concerned with reports of rising cases of COVID and hospitalizations in a growing number of states. We know the virus does not respect borders.”

Coronavirus case rates are on the rise in the United States in the aggregate, driven by increases in several states including New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Florida. Although California’s numbers continue to decline, Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors this week that increases on the East Coast have in the past preceded similar increases on the West Coast, with L.A. County typically trailing a few weeks behind New York.

“While conditions have definitely changed, particularly as we’ve vaccinated millions of individuals over the past three months, we do not yet have enough vaccine protection across the county to prevent more transmission if we’re not extraordinarily careful in these next few weeks,” Ferrer said.

Times staff writer Luke Money contributed to this report.

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