Los Angeles County health officials made a final plea Friday for residents to celebrate the Labor Day holiday safely and without large parties or gatherings, while also reporting another 47 coronavirus-related deaths.
The county also confirmed that beaches will remain open over the holiday weekend, despite concerns about large crowds that might flock to the sand to escape the heat wave expected to bake the Southland through Monday.
But officials with the county Department of Beaches and Harbors warned that health restrictions remain in place, meaning beachgoers must practice social distancing and wear face coverings when not in the water, eating or drinking. And if crowds get too large and people aren’t adhering to the guidelines, the beaches could be cleared.
“We cannot stress enough the importance of following the public health guidelines,” Beaches and Harbor Director Gary Jones said in a statement. “It is absolutely imperative that beachgoers avoid crowds. If the beaches get too crowded, we may be forced to close them again.”
County officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of coronavirus setbacks experienced following the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays, which led to dramatic spikes in virus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. All three of those metrics have been trending downward in recent weeks in the county, and health officials have been making pleas for the past two weeks that residents avoid Labor Day parties or gatherings with people outside their own households.
“I believe it is possible to celebrate Labor Day without repeating our (past) failures if everyone understands how much depends on individual actions we each will take,” public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Please have fun without exposing others or yourself to COVID-19. This is not the time or the place for parties or gatherings. We will all win if we each do our part.”
The 47 new deaths reported by the county Department of Public Health, along with four more announced by the Long Beach health agency, increased the countywide death toll since the start of the pandemic to 5,981.
The county also announced 1,439 new confirmed coronavirus cases, while Long Beach announced 37 more cases and Pasadena added 13. The cumulative number of cases countywide stood at 246,457 as of Friday.
The number of people hospitalized in the county continued its steady decline, dropping below the 1,000 mark to reach 992. County officials noted that figure is a 50% drop from the early August totals that topped 2,000.
County health officials also confirmed three more cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, bringing the overall total to 31. The syndrome has been linked to children who have either had or were exposed to COVID-19. There have been no reported deaths from the syndrome in the county.
On Thursday, the county’s chief medical officer, Dr. Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, put out an urgent call for not only residents but business owners to ensure they are adhering to operating protocols to prevent outbreaks among employees and customers. He said the county saw spikes in workplace outbreaks following the Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays.
He offered a series of tips for employers, including:
— allow employees to stay home if they’re feeling sick;
— modify workplaces to ensure distancing among employees and customers;
— provide face coverings to all employees and regular breaks so they can wash their hands;
— post large, clearly visible signs outlining the need for infection-control measures;
— train employees on safety measures;
— have extra face coverings available for customers who might not have one;
— encourage contact-less transactions; and
— report outbreaks as soon as possible.
He also made a plea for residents to adhere to health guidelines, and — conceding that parties and gatherings are likely to occur despite the county’s messaging — urged people to ensure they are taking precautions.
“Perhaps instead of inviting 25 people over, only invite 10,” he said. “Obviously we don’t recommend or support any gatherings, but we know that some of these are happening. We ask everyone to consider the risk that it introduces.”
Requirements for social distancing and face coverings will also be enforced at beaches over the holiday weekend, with some coastal cities prepared to issue fines for violators.
In Manhattan Beach, for example, people who fail to wear masks can face fines beginning at $100 and ranging up to $350. In Santa Monica, violators could be fined as much as $500.
The county Department of Beaches and Harbors also stressed that barbecues and bonfires are prohibited at the beaches and in beach parking lots.