On the same day Los Angeles County recorded its 300,000th coronavirus case and its 7,000th COVID-19 death, County Health Officer Muntu Davis issued a health advisory for private gatherings and public celebrations.
Citing the high risk of COVID-19 infection at such events given the increasing rate of COVID-19 community transmission, Davis said that “it is critical that we all take action to slow the spread” as we close in on Halloween, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.
“There have been too many instances of people unknowingly spreading the virus at these types of gatherings, which, sadly, has led to new infections, serious illness and death,” continued Davis.
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) October 27, 2020
Since early October, Los Angeles County’s average number of daily cases has increased from around 940 per day to almost 1,200 per day. Additionally, said an L.A. Public Health Department statement, recent contact tracing interviews over the course of 3 weeks showed that 55% of the people who knew of a possible exposure had attended an event or gathering where 2 or more people were sick.
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As a consequence, cautioned Davis, Angelenos should “not participating in public celebrations of any kind.” If they do, the health department issued protocols that must be adhered to (see below).
L.A. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that the recent spike in cases is the result of “decisions we collectively made two to three weeks ago. And the actions we’re taking today will influence whether we’re able to continue our recovery journey, or we stall or even take steps backward. We do need to slow the transmission to allow for economic recovery.”
Ferrer warned that gatherings of people from different households in close proximity are a major cause of disease spread. She has noted in recent weeks that younger residents are the primary drivers of new cases. And on Monday, she suggested that the recent start of college and pro football, the NBA playoffs and the Major League Baseball post-season may be playing a role in the daily case increases over the past month.
“We have all seen the pictures of sports fans rooting for their teams where they’re shouting in the middle of a large crowd, and almost no one is wearing a face covering. This is the perfect setting for transmitting the virus,” Ferrer said.
Asked to expand on the issue, Ferrer said gatherings of sports fans could be “contributing the most” to the recent case increases. Fans are still prevented in the county from attending sporting events in person, but many still flock to restaurants or other establishments to watch games on TV.
The case increases “do correspond with gatherings happening more frequently as people come together with non-household members to watch games,” she said. “And it wasn’t just the Lakers or the Clippers. It’s not just basketball. We now have football games that are happening and of course we’ve had the Dodgers in post-season for quite a few weeks already.
“The downside of this is during a pandemic [is that] some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense,” observed Ferrer. “Gathering in large crowds to watch games indoors, people aren’t wearing their face coverings, people are yelling a lot. That’s just not sensible. Even gathering outdoors at dining areas and watching games with hundreds of people and celebrating by jumping up and down with no masks on, hugging perfect strangers, again with a lot of shouting and cheering. It’s so easy to spread this virus.”
Ferrer also issued an early warning for people to celebrate Halloween safely on Saturday. She urged residents to modify their actions to the pandemic — using Zoom gatherings, holding at-home scavenger hunts or taking advantage of drive-through Halloween displays. She again discouraged door-to-door trick-or-treating, although the tradition isn’t being outright banned by the county’s health order.
She stressed that Halloween parties or other large gatherings are prohibited under the order.
“This pandemic has forced so many to sacrifice so much this year, and we recognize the frustration and disappointment with the holiday restrictions,” she said. “For now though, it’s simply not safe to celebrate holidays the way we usually do. Being close to others who are not in our household carries with it a lot of risk for transmitting COVID-19 this year.”
To prevent future spread of COVID-19, Davis reminded Angelenos that it is best to celebrate at home with your household. However, if you are going to host or attend a private gathering, it must adhere to the following protocols:
-Held outdoors with physical distancing between households
-Limited to 3 households, including the host and all guests
-Cloth face coverings being worn when not eating or drinking
-Food served in single-serve disposable containers
-Last for two hours or less
City News Service contributed to this report.