Health Officials Close Restaurants, Movie Theaters For Indoor Service Amid Spike In Hospitalizations, Transmission Rate

Diana J. Smith

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Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer announced on Tuesday that the county was modifying its health officer order to comply with the guidelines announced on Wednesday by California Governor Gavin Newsom.

“L.A. County’s really at a critical juncture at this point in time,” said Ferrer.

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“Immediate action is necessary in order for us to get back on track to slow the spread,” she added.

In terms of hard data, Ferrer said there had been 2,002 new cases over the last 24 hours. Ferrer added that that number was lower than recent reports because one major lab was late with its numbers. But it still marked the fourth day in a row that cases have been over 2,000. There have been 105,507 COVID cases total in L.A. County.

Ferrer revealed that the average daily total deaths over the past 7 days are down to around 20 from a high of 45 two weeks ago.

Ferrer reported 35 new deaths from coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the total lives lost from COVID-19 in L.A. County to 3,402.

According to Ferrer, there are currently 1,889 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in L.A. County. That’s an increase of about 100 patients since Tuesday. “This is the highest total we have reported in weeks,” said Ferrer.

Of those hospitalized with COVID-19, 27 percent are in ICU. L.A. County Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said the rate of hospital admissions has slowed, though it is still trending up. “We definitely have more young people who are being hospitalized,” noted Ferrer. A lot of younger people are coming in to emergency rooms, added Ghaly, being treated and then sent home. Those people don’t show up as hospitalizations, but they do increase the load on the medical system. “Our ER volume is actually quite high,” said Ghaly.

“In our communities,” warned Ghaly, “transmission is definitely increasing. That is very much a change for the worse, a cause for concern.”

“In the course of daily life, it is very likely that you will encounter another person who is infected,” said Ghaly.

“Ninety-one out of every 100 people who are tested are not positive,” said Ferrer. Extrapolating from that, it means the positivity rate in the county has risen to 9 percent.

“All county and city testing sites are at capacity and will not be available for appointments until next week.” She suggested those who think they’ve been infected call their health care provider and get a test from them. She noted an increased demand for testing.

The restrictions in L.A. County include restaurants once again shutting down dine-in service. This applies for at least the next three weeks. Restaurants will still be allowed to offer food for pickup or delivery.

Additionally, “at fitness facilities,” said Ferrer, “all clients and employees must wear cloth face coverings and gloves.” Public pools will remain open.

The restriction also extends to movie theaters, restaurants, indoor family entertainment businesses, card rooms and zoos. County Board of Supervisors member Hilda Solis said on Wednesday that, in addition to the previously mentioned spaces, places of worship would also not be allowed to hold gatherings inside. She also said that, in addition to fireworks displays, neighborhood block parties are also prohibited this weekend.

The governor ordered bars and nightclubs closed last weekend.

Asked about the impact of recent protests on coronavirus numbers Ferrer said, “It is hard to do the contact tracing” for protests but, “for any people who are in crowded situations for more than 15 minutes, you have a heightened risk. In certain situations where people are together for longer periods of time, we are certain that there will be infections.” But, she noted, “There’s a first amendment right for people to be able to protest, and we want to respect that right.”

Ferrer followed by addressing the guideline about gatherings and parties. “We have good examples in our data now,” Ferrer said. “There are many outbreaks that have happened over the past few weeks that have resulted from parties and gatherings.”

“We all need to be aware that there are very real risks to celebrating this holiday with people who are not in our household,” she added.

“Unfortunately, as our data is telling us, it’s just not safe to do this,” said Ferrer. “We need to take a moment to reset.”

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