LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County reported 6,918 new cases of COVID-19 and 316 additional deaths Saturday, as health officials also confirmed the second local case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 first discovered in the United Kingdom, and four additional cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).
The B.1.1.7 specimen, submitted by a clinical facility, was sequenced as part of routine surveillance by the county’s Public Health Laboratory. The first confirmed case of B.1.1.7 was logged on January 16, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Officials believes the B.1.1.7 and other variants are already spreading in the county, and they are continuing to test samples. B.1.1.7 is considered more contagious, but not necessarily more deadly, than the original strain of COVID-19.
The four additional cases of MIS-C bring the total number in L.A. County to 66 children, including one child death. All 66 children with MIS-C in L.A. County were hospitalized and 44% of the children were treated in the ICU. Of the 66, 32% were under the age of 5, 38% were between the ages of 5 and 11, and 30% were between the ages of 12 and 20. Latino/Latinx children account for nearly 74% of the reported cases, the department said.
MIS-C is an inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19, and symptoms include fever that does not go away and inflamed body parts, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.
The county’s COVID-19 hospitalization rates continues to decline, with 5,669 coronavirus patients hospitalized Saturday, down from 5,855 the day before, and 26% of those patients in the ICU.
Allocations of COVID-19 vaccine continue to lag behind demand, with the county expecting to receive roughly 188,000 doses next week. Many of those, however, will be needed to administer second shots to people who have already received the first dose of the two-dose regimen.
Meanwhile, outdoor dining returned to the county Friday after a two-month shutdown, but with a new restriction forcing restaurants to turn off or remove all televisions from customer seating areas — a clear effort to prevent gatherings of sports fans. The county’s revised Health Officer Order also reinstates previous restrictions on outdoor dining: requiring servers to wear masks and face shields, limiting restaurants to 50% of patio capacity, limiting tables to no more than six people from the same household and requiring tables to be at least eight feet apart.
But the order also states: “Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off. This provision is effective until further notice.” The provision is directly aimed at preventing gatherings of sports fans, particularly with the Super Bowl approaching on Feb. 7.
The new health order limits table seating at restaurant patios to six people, and “all people seated at a table should be members of the same household.” The order encourages, but does not mandate, seating to be done by advance reservation. It urges restaurants to ask customers “to call in advance to confirm outdoor seating/serving capacity, where possible.” Restaurants also must collect contact information from customers in case there’s a future need to reach out in contact-tracing efforts.
The order also lifts the previous requirement that non-essential retail businesses be closed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. On Monday, following the lifting of the state’s regional stay-at-home order, the county immediately cleared personal-service businesses such as barber shops and nail salons to reopen, albeit with strict infection-control requirements.
Daily COVID-19 infection numbers have been trending downward over the past two weeks, following a surge that saw the county regularly reporting well over 10,000 cases.