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Council Expected to Continue Hybrid Meetings

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By Jorge Casuso

October 5, 2022 -- The City Council will likely take a cautious approach to COVID despite steadily dwindling cases by continuing to hold meetings that can be attended in-person or online.

The Council on Tuesday is expected to make the findings necessary to continue the practice adopted six months ago, while authorizing all Boards and Commissions to continue to meet remotely.

The vote comes as coronavirus cases in the city of some 93,000 have averaged about a dozen a day over the past two weeks, with one virus-related death reported over the past nine days, according to LA County Health data.

Since a health emergency was declared nearly two-and-a-half years ago, there have been a total of 24,050 confirmed cases and 273 reported deaths in Santa Monica.

The steadily dwindling number of cases reflects a countywide -- as well as nationwide -- trend that has seen deaths and hospitalizations drop despite the rapid spread of the highly contagious but far less serious and fatal Omicron BA.5 subvariant.

County Health officials noted last week that most early alert signals indicate "low concern," which is reflected in the dearth of pres releases that were issued on a daily basis for most of the past two years.

On Friday, County health officials reported that the 7-day average case count continued dropping last week -- from 1,397 cases to 1,297, an 8 percent decline.

During the same period, the average number of daily COVID-positive patients in LA County hospitals dropped from 602 to 499, a 17 percent decline.

That compares to a weekly record of 265,975 cases and more than 4,800 hospitalizations during the Omicron surge in early January.

Virus-related deaths, which typically take several weeks to report, remained stable last week at an average of 11 per day in the county of more than 10 million.

Nearly all of those who died with the virus were older than 65 and had serious underlying health conditions.

To date, there have been 3,461,037 confirmed cases in LA County and 33,719 virus-related deaths reported, according to Public Health data.

In recommending that hybrid Council meetings be continued, staff acknowledged the County is "not experiencing the high case levels and positivity rates as seen during the height of the winter surge."

But it noted that the emergency declared on March 16, 2020 is ongoing and that "many people, including those with identified underlying medical conditions, unvaccinated older adults, people from ethnic and racial minority groups, remain at risk for severe illness from COVID-19."

That concern continues to be shared by City Boards and Commissions which have elected to continue to meet remotely, although they "can affirmatively decide to meet in person, just as the City Council decided for itself," staff said.

If approved, Tuesday's findings would allow remote or hybrid meetings to continue at least through November 10.

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