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Spike In Coronavirus Cases Among LA County Healthcare Workers, Officials Talk Reopening Plans

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Over the past week the number of new coronavirus cases among Los Angeles County's healthcare workers rose by more than 1,000, while local officials confirmed Monday that plans to begin slowly reopening businesses will come within the next few days.

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Shoppers walk at the West LA Farmer's Market in Santa Monica, California on May 3, 2020. - All Farmers Markets in the City of Los Angeles must have an approved COVID-19 operational plan to work under public health orders and Mayor Garcetti's direction. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the state will begin moving into the second phase of his four-phase reopening plan, which involves reopening businesses and workplaces that are deemed low-risk because they can easily enact social distancing guidelines.

"Later this week, we'll be sharing more details on the plans for recovery here in L.A. County, and I know we're all looking forward to more businesses reopening and more people being able to get back to work," L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer told reporters Monday afternoon.

On Monday night, L.A. County officials said they would unveil their plans for reopening on Wednesday, while Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties said they were actively working on reopening plans and Ventura did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, there were 568 new coronavirus cases and 28 deaths from the disease over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 26,217, and the death toll to 1,256.

There are currently 1,819 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in L.A. County. 30% of those are in ICU beds and 17% are on ventilators. Ferrer noted that there has been a steady decrease in hospitalizations.

"Our numbers of people who are hospitalized each day has been slightly lower than it was the week earlier," she said. "And we'll continue to watch that information carefully to see if that good news continues."

However, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes continues to rise at an alarming rate.

Ferrer said 616 residents of L.A. County institutional settings have died of coronavirus, the vast majority of which lived in nursing homes. That accounts for 49% of all coronavirus deaths in the county.

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

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.

Furthermore, 2,978 healthcare workers in L.A. County have now tested positive for coronavirus. This is an additional 1,010 new cases since last Monday. The large spike is due in part to increased testing at nursing homes.

The vast majority of positive cases among healthcare workers are at nursing homes and hospitals, with 40% of all cases in nursing homes, and 30% in hospitals.

Nurses account for 44% of all cases among healthcare workers. 7% of all healthcare workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 have required hospitalization.

There are 15 coronavirus deaths among L.A. County healthcare workers. 12 of those worked in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

"We continue to work with the department of health services to test all staff and residents at these facilities," Ferrer reiterated Monday.

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