With Thanksgiving Coming, Health Officials Fear a Bigger Rise in COVID-19 Infections

Citing mounting evidence of residents ignoring health orders to gather in public places or hold private get-togethers, Los Angeles County’s public health director warned again Monday of an already worsening COVID-19 situation becoming even more dire during the upcoming holiday season.

Barbara Ferrer said surveys of residents and patients who have become infected with the coronavirus show steady increases in interactions with people outside their own households. She said an ongoing USC study found that for the week ending Oct. 20, 57% of survey respondents reported being in close contact with someone they don’t live with in the previous seven days.

The study also found that roughly one-third of respondents that week reported visiting another person’s home in the previous seven days, while one-third said they had visitors at their own home. About 10% said they had attended a gathering of 10 or more people in the past week.

“I know this sounds like a small number, but if 10% of L.A. residents attend gatherings, this translates to 1 million people gathering with others not in their household,” Ferrer said. “And if we assume that 2% of people can be infected, we could possibly have 20,000 people capable of infecting others who are milling about at these gatherings each week.”

She said the USC data, combined with information collected during contact tracing interviews with virus patients, shows “there’s ample evidence that gatherings are increasing and are one of the drivers of the increases in cases in L.A. County.”

And with Thanksgiving just weeks away, Ferrer said concern is mounting that the holidays could make things worse.

“With our case numbers already on the rise, we are concerned about the upcoming months,” Ferrer said. “Holiday gatherings and cooler weather, when people are more likely to gather indoors, are perfect conditions for spreading COVID-19.”

Ferrer announced another 1,406 coronavirus cases on Monday — a day that is typically marked by relatively low daily case numbers due to reporting lags from the weekend. She noted that the county has reported almost 3,000 new cases over the last two days, a time of week when numbers are always lower than the rest of the week.

“So if that trend holds true, then we’re going to see higher numbers for the rest of this week,” she said. “And that would in fact not only create a lot of concern for us but also mean that it is unlikely that in the next two weeks we make any movement in L.A. County to” the next tier of the state’s economic-reopening roadmap.

The county is still in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the matrix and will need to lower daily case numbers to about 700 to have a chance to move on.

“If we do nothing or continue on the path we’re currently on as a country, the cases will continue to rise,” Ferrer said. “… I have faith that we’re going to get back to slowing the spread, and we have to get back to slowing the spread right now.”

She added: “We’d have to stop with the gatherings. … We’re pretty convinced at this point that these smaller gatherings where people feel pretty safe because they’re with friends and extended family are in fact fueling a lot of the increase, because they’re just not as safe as we’d like to believe they are.”

Ferrer said the county does not want to be forced into a position of forcing the re-closure of businesses that have been allowed to reopen during the pandemic, but it will take a commitment of residents to adhere to protocols.

And while young people have been cited as representing the bulk of newer virus cases in the county, Ferrer said that demographic isn’t solely to blame for such gatherings.

“I don’t agree at all that all the young people aren’t taking this seriously, aren’t feeling like they have an obligation to help slow the spread, because I know lots and lots of young people that are doing the right thing,” she said. “… There are a group of people, and some are young people and some are not-so-young people, that continue to defy what I think are common-sense orders.”

The 1,406 new cases reported by the county, along with 10 more announced by Long Beach health officials, pushed the county’s cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 310,605.

The county also reported two new deaths, giving the county an overall death toll of 7,076.

There were 777 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, down from 799 on Sunday.

There were no new infections in West Hollywood reported today, leaving the overall number to date at 677. The number of people in West Hollywood who have died of COVID-19 related illnesses is still listed as five.

In Beverly Hills, the number of confirmed infections has increased by one from Sunday’s count of 765. The number of COVID-19 related deaths in Beverly Hills to date 12. The number of COVID-19 infections confirmed among Culver City has increased by two since Sunday, bringing the total to date to 437. The number of deaths to date is 28. The number of infections in Hollywood has increased by 14 to a total to date of 1,435. The number of deaths to date remains at 15. The Melrose neighborhood’s number of infections as of today is 2,191, an increase of nine from yesterday. The number of COVID-19 related deaths to date is reported as 74, a decline from the earlier count of 75. Such changes typically occur when it has been determined that someone’s city of residents was incorrect.

Public Health has a dedicated call line for confirmed cases of COVID-19. If you are positive for COVID-19 and have not yet connected with a public health specialist or need more information on services, call toll-free at 1 (833) 540-0473. Residents who do not have COVID-19 can continue to call 211 for resources or more information.

One way the virus can be transmitted is through a cough, a sneeze or even through air that comes from the mouth when someone talks. For that reason, residents must wear face coverings when out in public and can be cited for not doing so. The citations come with a $250 fine and a $50 administrative fee.

West Hollywood residents with questions about the COVID-19 pandemic or who are looking for resources to deal with it can find answers on the City of West Hollywood’s website. Here is a list of links to sections about particular subjects and issues:

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