Coronavirus test tube samples

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health conducts Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 on March 19, 2020.

Another seven coronavirus-related deaths were reported today, along with 439 new cases, with the low numbers reflecting reporting lags and reduced availability of testing over the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The seven deaths increased the cumulative countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 6,036.

The 439 new cases gave the county an overall total of 249,241. There were 942 people hospitalized due to the virus as of today.

It was too early to tell, however, if the holiday weekend -- which saw large crowds gathering at some beaches thanks to the heat -- will result in a spike in cases similar to those that occurred following the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends. Since COVID-19 has a roughly 14-day incubation period, a possible spike in cases due to the Labor Day holiday won't be known for two weeks.

"We thank everyone who modified their holiday plans and actions to avoid exposures to COVID-19," county public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "As we prepare for schools reopening to provide services for high-need students that require in-person support, we all must do our very best to minimize participating in non-essential activities that create risk of virus transmission.

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"L.A. County is still among the California counties with high rates of community transmission," she said. "Before we get into cooler weather and flu season, we need to significantly lower the number of new cases. This is the only path forward that allows us to get more students back to school and reopen more business sectors."

The county announced last week it will authorize the return of in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, but only for small groups of students with individualized learning plans, students requiring instruction for English as a second language and students needing other "specialized in-school services."

All other students will still be limited to remote learning.

County officials also authorized indoor hair salons and barbershops to resume operating last week, but limited to 25% of capacity. The county still has not authorized the reopening of indoor shopping malls, even though new state guidelines that took effect early last week allow those malls to open with capacity limited to 25%. Counties can impose stricter guidelines than the state, depending on local health conditions.

Health officials today issued an extra warning for people to exercise caution when venturing outside, due to the combination of heat and smoke from the fires burning in the region. Residents in affected areas were urged to avoid physical exertion and keep their windows and doors closed as much as possible to keep smoky air out.

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