By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer Monday hailed work by residents and businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19, noting that the county now meets five of the state’s six coronavirus-monitoring benchmarks.

Ferrer however warned that large gatherings, parties and indoor church services could threaten that recovery effort.

“We know that a person can be positive for COVID-19 and able to transmit the virus to others without ever, ever having any symptoms, or even being aware that they are infected,” Barbara Ferrer said. “If this person attends a gathering, especially indoors, where they’re socializing, eating, drinking, potentially not wearing a face covering or distancing, they can easily infect many other people who are at the gathering doing the same.

“We have many examples here in our county and across the country of gatherings, parties and services that did result in outbreaks of COVID-19,” she said. “We’ve seen outbreaks on college campuses, fraternity and sorority houses, restaurants, from our protests, churches and at people’s homes all across the country and some of these gatherings have resulted in tragic loss of life and serious illness.”

Ferrer expressed overall optimism about the positive trends in most coronavirus-tracking measures and said the county now meets six of the state’s benchmarks, falling short only in the rate of new cases, which stands at a 14-day daily average of 295 new cases per 100,000 residents. The state benchmark is 100 or less.

The county does, however, meet other benchmarks for drops in hospitalizations, the seven-day average positivity rate — now at 6% — testing capacity and availability of intensive-care unit beds and ventilators.

The county will remain on the state’s monitoring list until it can meet all six state benchmarks. Being on the watch list prevents the reopening of schools and other businesses.

As of Monday morning, 42 of the 58 counties in the state were on the list, although San Diego County is expected to be removed by Tuesday, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Also Monday, Ferrer announced another 19 deaths due to the virus, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 5,273.

She also announced another 1,185 cases bringing the total to 223,131 since the pandemic began. She noted that the numbers of new cases and deaths are typically lower early in the week due to reduced testing and reporting over the weekend.

Despite the continued reporting of new cases and deaths, Ferrer praised the work of residents to adhere to restrictions by wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

“I hope this data reminds all of us of the power our actions have in preventing serious illness and saving lives, and again I want to just say how grateful I am for everyone who’s doing their part to make sure we slow the spread of COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “We do still have a ways to go to reduce community transmission enough to be able to have confidence that the timing would be right to reopen our schools and get more people back to work.

“We don’t want infections from the community coming back into our schools and creating an increase of outbreaks that then increases the amount of community transmission we’re going to see.”

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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