Wear a Face Mask sign on Metro bus during coronavirus outbreak

Los Angeles County reported another 51 deaths and 2,645 new cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the county's totals to 206,761 cases and 4,967 fatalities.

In some good news, hospitalizations continued to decline, with 1,610 confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized and 31% in intensive care -- down significantly from the 2,200 level of about a month ago. The hospitalization numbers were averaging about 2,000 a day last week.

The state's top health officer, Dr. Mark Ghaly, told reporters Friday that problems with the state's electronic laboratory reporting system are being resolved and he expected to see a backlog in reporting results -- affecting as many as 300,000 tests -- begin to clear in 24 to 48 hours.

Once that backlog is resolved, Los Angeles County and other jurisdictions could see a sudden jump in infection numbers. The glitch has not affected the reported number of hospitalizations or deaths, but it has affected the county's contact tracing efforts.

Given the past ELR delays, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health urges any person with a positive lab result to call 1-833-540-0473 to connect with a public health specialist who can provide information about services and support.

"After a fairly rough July, we are cautiously optimistic about what our numbers are showing in the first week of August, particularly the information on declining daily hospitalizations," county public health director Barbara Ferrer said. "We have many weeks ahead where we need to continue to limit the spread of COVID-19 and this will require putting on hold some activities we may love that put others at grave risk."

Testing results were available for 1,914,731 individuals with 10% of all people testing positive.

Health officials have noted that younger people -- those more likely to attend such a large gathering -- represent the bulk of newer coronavirus cases being reported, and they are also representing a higher percentage of people being hospitalized.

The overall slow progress in controlling the spread of the virus has forced area schools to continue online instruction for the upcoming school year.

The state on Friday released protocols for colleges and universities that eventually reopen their campuses, although most for now are primarily holding virtual and distance-learning courses. The protocols include face coverings for everyone on campus, social distancing and six-foot spacing of desks, a ban on most indoor classes for counties -- like Los Angeles -- on the state's coronavirus monitoring list, elimination of shared-space areas such as lounges and game rooms and limits on nonessential visitors and campus activities.

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