LA County confirms 2,173 new COVID-19 cases, 17 deaths

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County has confirmed 2,173 new cases of COVID-19, and an additional 17 deaths, as health officials continue to whittle away a backlog of tests results that were delayed by a technical glitch.
  Saturday's newly reported cases include an estimated 1,200 backlog cases due to technical issues with data reporting systems this week. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it may receive additional backlog test results over the coming days.
  To date, the agency has identified 298,937 positive cases of COVID-19 across the county, and a total of 6,989 deaths. There are 770 people with COVID- 19 currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 29% of whom are in the ICU.
  Hospitalizations have remained below the 800 mark for several weeks, following post-July Fourth surges that saw more than 2,000 daily hospital cases.
  During the past week, county officials had reported unusually low daily case numbers due to the unspecified reporting problems. The issues began to resolve Thursday, when the county announced 3,600 new cases, the largest number since a surge that occurred after the Fourth of July holiday. County officials noted that about 2,000 of the cases reported Thursday were a result of the backlog.
  Public Health officials said the daily case numbers will likely continue to be higher than usual this week.
  On Friday, county officials also confirmed two new cases of a rare, coronavirus-related pediatric condition, known as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children. The two new cases lifted the countywide total to 43, all of whom required hospitalization and half of whom were admitted to intensive care units. There have not been any deaths in the county due to MIS-C.
  Also Friday, county official lifted restrictions on some businesses. The revisions allowed the reopening of indoor personal-care businesses such as tattoo parlors and massage-therapy shops. The county also cleared the way for outdoor family entertainment centers to open, including go-kart tracks, miniature golf courses and batting cages.
  A program that allows schools to resume in-person instruction for high- need and English-learning students was also expanded Friday. That program previously allowed schools to bring such students back to campus, up to 10% of a school's overall enrollment. That limit is now being increased to 25%, Supervisor Kathryn Barger said, "so more students and youth can have access to their teachers and the on-site support systems that are so critical for their growth and for their education."
  Public health director Barbara Ferrer said that as of last week, 986 schools are taking part in that program, with nearly 35,000 students now receiving in-person instruction and nearly 20,000 teachers and staff back on campuses. Those changes in the county's health officer order are expected to be finalized Friday.
  The county is also revising its order to ease restrictions on wineries and breweries. Customers will no longer be required to make reservations one day in advance to visit a winery or brewery, and wineries will no longer be required to sell food along with alcohol.
  County health officials confirmed three cases of COVID-19 were reported at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley. The church has been in a legal battle with the county over the health order, which bars indoor worship services.
  A judge issued an order requiring the church to stop holding such services, but the church has been defying that order, and it could be held in contempt at a court hearing next month.
  An attorney for the church issued a statement Friday condemning the use of the word "outbreak" to describe the three coronavirus cases -- although the county throughout the pandemic has defined an "outbreak" as three or more cases at a single location.
  "Three very mild positive tests among more than 7,000 people is hardly news -- 0.0004% is not an `outbreak,"' attorney Jenna Ellis said in a statement. "... It has never been the church's position that it is only safe to hold services if no one ever tests positive, or for example, if no one ever gets the flu during flu season.
  "Our position has been that L.A. County shutting down churches indefinitely amid a virus with a 99.98% survival rate, especially when state- preferred businesses are open and protests are held without restriction, is unconstitutional and harmful to the free exercise of religion," she said.
  The county health order allows church services, but requires that they be held outdoors.