LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As California allows most businesses to reopen at full capacity and prepares to ease mask restrictions, Los Angeles County is marking tremendous progress since the worst, darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
County health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer noted that at the peak of the pandemic in January 2021, the county was seeing an average of 277 deaths per day from COVID-19.
Now, as vaccinations continue to progress, that daily death figure is in the low single digits, she said.
Similarly, at one point the county was seeing 15,000 new coronavirus cases a day. Now it sees about 150 new positive tests per day.
And the Los Angeles metropolitan area leads other big cities across the country with the lowest rates per capita, she noted.
Barbara Ferrer details Los Angeles County's progress since the pandemic's peak
Los Angeles County is seeing about 1.5 new cases per 100,000 residents. By comparison, the New York metro area is seeing 2.8 per 100,000, while Miami is up at 9.1 cases.
"After 16 months of enormous upheaval and loss, we can now share in a genuine sense of hope," Ferrer said Tuesday.
At one point, she said, there were 8,000 COVID-19 patients in Los Angeles County hospitals. Now there are typically fewer than 250.
Ferrer and other county officials spoke on the day that California was lifting most of its pandemic restrictions on capacity at businesses and limits on sizes of gatherings.
For many businesses, it was a time to celebrate. Langer's Deli was reopening for in-person dining for the first time in more than a year.
"It's a smile day," said owner Norm Langer. "I feel great. It's an opportunity for me to bring all my servers back. It's an opportunity for me to welcome my customers back, and try to put a smile on everybody's face."
But there will still be some mask requirements in place, with LA County matching state and federal guidelines.
For example, masks will still be required on all public transit in Los Angeles County, regardless of vaccination status, as well as at schools and childcare centers, healthcare settings, correctional facilities and homeless shelters.
Workplace rules on masks are governed by Cal OSHA, which is expected to make a decision later this week aligning the state with CDC guidelines that say only unvaccinated workers should be required to wear a mask while at work.