LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – As Los Angeles County and the rest of California prepares to begin reopening businesses, officials announced Thursday that nursing home residents now make up more than half of the deaths from COVID-19 in L.A. County.

An employee inside a restaurant waits for customers arriving for pickup in Alhambra, Calif., on May 7, 2020. (Getty Images)

There were 51 new coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours and 815 cases, L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer reported Thursday. The county’s death toll now stands at 1,418, and the total number of cases is at 29,427.

718 residents of L.A. County’s institutional settings have now died of coronavirus, Ferrer disclosed, the vast majority of which lived in nursing homes. That accounts for 51 percent of all the coronavirus deaths in the county.

Institutional settings include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, treatment centers and supportive living facilities.

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While testing for staff and residents at nursing facilities had ramped up considerably of late, L.A. County didn’t begin barring visitors to nursing homes and other institutional settings until April 24. Only essential workers are now allowed in.

Ferrer admitted last week that officials were initially slow to act in containing the outbreak at nursing homes because they did not know that COVID-19 could be spread by people who were infected but were asymptomatic.

Meanwhile, 92 percent of all those who have died of coronavirus had preexisting conditions.

On Friday, the L.A. County will allow certain low-risk businesses to reopen, including florists and some retailers.

However, Ferrer Thursday cautioned against Angelenos letting down their guard.

“Just because something opens up, doesn’t mean you have to go out and make purchases right now,” Ferrer said. “If you’ve been comfortable using online purchasing, you’re still able to do that. And we do want to note, you are still safer at home, and you should only go out for what is essential.”

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