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City Hall Reopens as Local COVID Cases Plummet

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By Jorge Casuso

February 8, 2022 -- For the first time in nearly two years, the City of Santa Monica has opened City Hall and the Public Safety Facility to the public as coronavirus cases continue to plummet.

There were 436 COVID-19 cases in Santa Monica last week, the fewest since 363 cases were reported the week before Christmas, when the highly contagious Omicron variant began rapidly spreading.

Over the next six weeks, Santa Monica would average 1,339 weekly cases, reaching a record 1,902 cases New Year's week, according to an analysis of Los Angeles County Health data.

There were three virus-related deaths reported last week, after two deaths were reported in each of the two prior weeks. It takes about two weeks for a COVID-19-related death to be reported.

Since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Santa Monica on March 16, 2020, there have been a total of 15,929 confirmed cases and 207 virus-related deaths.

The day the first local case was confirmed in the City of some 93,000 residents, City Hall's doors were closed, reopening on Monday after nearly 100 weeks.

City Hall has resumed normal hours, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and every other Friday, City officials said.

Building and Safety, Planning, Mobility, and Utility payment services are available by appointment 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

The Public Safety Facility also resumed its regular schedule and is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Members of the public are required to wear a face covering inside all City facilities, while City staff is required to wear a medical-grade face mask, City officials said.

"Physical distancing at shared counters and waiting counters should be maintained," officials said. "Hand sanitizer will be readily available to the public."

The opening of City Hall and the Public Safety facility come one day before California officials announced the State would be lifting its indoor masking requirements in public settings next Tuesday.

"Our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state," Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted. "Unvaccinated people will need to wear masks indoors. Get vaccinated. Get boosted."

School children, those that are unvaccinated, and those in high risk areas such as public transit and nursing facilities, will still be required to wear masks.

While California is easing some of the nation's strictest State requirements, Los Angeles County Public Health officials said they are not following suit.

On Tuesday, County Health announced the masking requirement at indoor establishments will continue until a “moderate” transmission rate of 50 new cases per 100,000 people is achieved for two consecutive weeks.

Last week, the daily average case rate was 102 positive cases per 100,000 residents, down from 193 positive cases per 100,000 residents the previous week.

Before mask mandates are lifted, vaccines must have been available for children under age five for eight weeks and there must be "no emerging reports of significantly circulating new variants of concern that threaten vaccine effectiveness."

On Tuesday, Public Health reported a total of 2,735,688 positive cases of COVID-19 countywide.

Last week, the County reported an average of 9,800 daily cases, a 47 percent decrease from an average of 18,617 daily cases reported the previous week.

On Tuesday, 2,702 people with the virus were hospitalized, according to County data.

Last week, the seven-day average of daily hospital admissions decreased to 310, from an average of 411 admissions the previous week.

Some 60 percent of those hospitalized were admitted for unrelated reasons and learned they were infected after being tested during admission, County health officials have said.

Testing results are available for more than 11,202,900 individuals, with 22 percent of people testing positive.

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