Health official cautious despite improving coronavirus numbers

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — While L.A. County coronavirus numbers are trending in the right direction, the county’s public health director reminded residents Aug. 21 that the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends resulted in major case spikes and should serve as a warning against holding parties or large gatherings for Labor Day.

Taking part in an ABC7 online question-and-answer session, Barbara Ferrer noted that two weeks after the Fourth of July weekend, the county had “our worst-ever surge in cases and hospitalizations.”

“Of course, we’re looking to what we can do differently around Labor Day,” Ferrer said.

She didn’t offer any specifics in terms of what steps might be taken to prevent a repeat of the post-July 4 and Memorial Day spikes, but Ferrer said she hopes people take heed of the public-gathering restrictions during the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

“I will say I hope people understand that just because some sectors have reopened … doesn’t mean things have returned to normal,” Ferrer said on a Channel 7 webcast. “There’s nothing about normal that we should look forward to right now. What we’re doing is creating a new normal where we’re still going to have to adhere to restrictions and modifications in how we interact with each other.

“Having a gathering, a social gathering, going to a party, inviting people over for dinner who aren’t in your household, going to people’s houses who aren’t in your household, going to the beach with 20 of your best friends — in my mind these are not essential activities to do during a pandemic,” she said. “Essential activities are getting to work, getting our schools back open so our children can have a learning experience.

“And in order for those activities to happen, we all have to make sacrifices about these other activities that just can’t be as important now. We have to find other ways to stay socially connected that don’t jeopardize our recovery journey.”

Ferrer and other county health officials in recent weeks have hailed declining hospitalization numbers and testing-positivity rates as signs that the county has been successfully slowing the spread of COVID-19. Ferrer noted recently that the county now meets five of the state’s six criteria for controlling infections, falling short only in the per-capita rate of people testing positive for the virus.

Until the county meets all six of the criteria, it will remain on the state’s coronavirus monitoring list, which prevents more businesses from reopening and requires school campuses to remain closed.

Health officials have praised residents for their work adhering to calls for wearing face coverings and maintaining social distance from others.

But recent improvements in the county’s coronavirus numbers are likely attributable in part to continued restrictions that keep bars closed and require restaurants to offer outdoor dining only.

Ferrer noted that when bars in the county were allowed to reopen at the end of June, roughly 500,000 people flocked to bars that weekend.

“That was a lot of exposure,” she said. “And remember, those people were unlikely to be wearing their face coverings and they were indoors. We can’t make those kinds of mistakes again. Not now. Our community transmission rates are just too high for us to really make a mistake that puts so many people in contact with other people without the ability to take those protective measures that we actually know will work.”

The county reported another 46 deaths Aug. 21 due to the coronavirus. The new deaths increased the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 5,492.

Los Angeles County also announced 1,759 additional confirmed cases of the virus, and noted that 72% of those cases were people under age 50.

A total of 1,347 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19. The number of hospitalizations has been trending downward in recent weeks, though health officials said the decline has leveled off in recent days. But the number is still well below the roughly 2,200 hospital patients seen in mid-July.



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