Health & Fitness
People roller skate along Venice Beach amid the COVID-19 pandemic on September 3, 2020 in Venice, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Image)

LOS ANGELES, CA —If the spread of the coronavirus outbreak is going to slow enough for Los Angeles County to begin reopening schools and businesses, younger people will have to be more careful, according to county health officials.

New COVID-19 cases crept up tp 1,177, the county reported Saturday. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health also reported 29 more deaths Saturday, bringing the county’s totals to 253,176 cases and 6,197 fatalities.Strikingly, the vast majority of new cases — 71% — occured in people under the age of 50 years old, according to county health officials.

Authorities did not speculate as to why younger people appear more prone to contract and spread the disease, but they did point to a finding by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that dining and drinking at places that offer on-site eating and drinking is one of the riskiest activities for COVID-19 transmission.

“We wish healing and peace to our families and friends who are mourning their loved one lost to COVID-19,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “We need the help of our younger county residents to slow the spread even more than we are doing now, so that we can move into lower tiers that allow for the reopening of more business sectors and schools. This means this is not the time for non-essential activities and social gatherings, but a time for distancing and avoiding close contact with people you don’t live with.”

The number of people hospitalized in the county due to the virus continued to fall, dropping from 889 Friday to 877, levels not seen in the county since the early days of the pandemic in April. Of those hospitalized, 33% were in intensive care.

Meanwhile, the county announced that some COVID-19 testing centers would be closed this weekend due to health concerns stemming from unhealthy air quality caused by the Bobcat Fire.

Testing sites at East L.A. College in Monterey Park, the Pomona Fairplex and San Gabriel Valley Airport in El Monte were closed Saturday and Sunday, while the site at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita will be closed Sunday.

Ferrer held conference calls with local education officials earlier this week, telling them it’s unlikely K-12 schools will be authorized to reopen for in-person instruction before November. Schools have been authorized to begin small in-person classes for students with specialized needs or individual learning plans or who are learning to speak English.

Ferrer reiterated that the county would not be offering waivers that were once on the table for individual schools to seek a return to in-person instruction, based on the virus situation in their particular community.

L.A. County is in the highest tier for danger from the pandemic, which means a general reopening of schools is not currently permitted under state orders.

Long Beach Unified, the county’s second-largest school system, told parents Thursday that the district would continue online-only instruction through the winter break to provide instructional stability.

City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.