As fireworks shows were canceled for the Fourth of July, in-door restaurant dining was banned and beaches closed, new coronavirus cases and the number of people hospitalized with the virus continued to inch upward in Los Angeles County heading into the holiday weekend, raising fears about the rate of community spread as officials struggle to enforce health restrictions.
Fifty-five additional deaths due to the coronavirus were reported in the county Thursday, along with 2,204 newly confirmed cases — the fifth consecutive day that new cases exceeded 2,000.
The county Department of Public Health reported that 1,893 people were hospitalized in the county as of Thursday. That figure excludes patients in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments.
The figure is up slightly from 1,889 on Wednesday, and continues an upward trend that began last week, when the number was closer to 1,300. It also echoes statewide figures, with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing Thursday that hospitalizations across the state had increased by 56% in the past two weeks.
The county’s health department is not expecting to report any new data Friday and possibly not until Monday so officials can improve the data processing systems. The improvements are beginning earlier than expected, and there is no reason to suspect previous data was inaccurate, Jesus Ruiz, spokesman for the county’s COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center, told City News Service on Friday.
Full data on case counts will continue to be collected.
The county’s coronavirus totals as of Friday stood at 107,792 cases and 3,457 deaths.
The overall percentage of people testing positive for the virus in the county remained at about 9%. County health officials said Wednesday that the daily average of positive tests over the past seven days was 8.4%, up from about 5.8% two weeks ago.
Newsom said positivity rates also continued to increase statewide, with the daily average over the past 14 days up to 6.3%, representing a roughly 37% increase over the past two weeks. The state’s seven-day average daily positivity rate was 6.9% as of Thursday, Newsom said.
Los Angeles County on Wednesday issued a revised health order to come into compliance with requirements announced earlier in the day by Newsom. The governor ordered the closure of many indoor business operations, most notably eliminating indoor dine-in service at restaurants. Also barred were indoor activities at museums, zoos, aquariums and card rooms.
Those restrictions will be in effect for at least three weeks, Newsom said.
Los Angeles County had already ordered the closure of all beaches for the Fourth of July weekend, along with the cancellation of all fireworks displays. All bars in the county were closed by a governor’s order on Sunday.
With the Fourth of July weekend ahead, health officials said they were increasingly concerned about people gathering for parties or family gatherings with people outside their own households, threatening to lead to even more infections.
“We’re really at a pivotal point,” public health director Barbara Ferrer said. “If we can’t find a way collectively to sort of minimize our exposure to multiple different family units, multiple different units of people that we’re now back at work with, we will continue to see the rise in cases. We’ve got to do something right now to sort of get us back to a more level ground.”
Questioned again earlier this week about why beaches are closed to prevent gatherings but nothing was done to prevent massive protests against police brutality, Ferrer stressed that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to protest.
Health officials have not been able to trace any specific outbreaks of the virus to the protests of the past month, primarily due to the difficulty in tracing exact exposure sources for people who may have contracted the illness in a variety of locations. But Ferrer said she has consistently stated that the protests were a likely source of coronavirus transmission, as is any location where large numbers of people are gathered for long period of time without face coverings or social distancing.
County officials issued a series of pleas Thursday for residents to avoid public gatherings over the Fourth of July holiday, including get-togethers with extended family.
“Stay safe by staying at home this holiday weekend,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement. “Let’s ensure our healthcare system can meet the demand from this pandemic, as well as treat patients with cancer, diabetes, and other pre-existing conditions. We are asking everyone to make collective sacrifices for the greater good by avoiding crowds, practicing physical distancing, and wearing a face mask this holiday weekend.”
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