As L.A. County’s COVID-19 deaths reach 6,000, officials warn of risk of more virus spread over Labor Day weekend

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People sit on the Santa Monica pier as others gather on the beach on the first day of the Labor Day weekend on Sept. 5, 2020 in Santa Monica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

People sit on the Santa Monica pier as others gather on the beach on the first day of the Labor Day weekend on Sept. 5, 2020 in Santa Monica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Los Angeles County’s COVID-19 death toll reached 6,000 Saturday, marking a grim milestone on Labor Day weekend.

“Unfortunately, today marks another devastating low point for LA County as we acknowledge that 6,000 residents have lost their lives to COVID-19,” Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “While the progress we’ve made over the past several weeks to get back to slowing the spread is very positive, it has come at a cost to so many of our families and neighbors.”

The somber news came amid fears that holiday gatherings may lead to another spike in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations — one like the surge seen after Memorial Day.

And with a heat wave scorching the Southland, leading to many flocking to local beaches, the L.A. County Department of Public Health warned of “great risk” of virus spread when people gather with others from different households.

“While holidays are typically a time to come together with extended family and friends to celebrate, we ask you to alter your plans this year and take responsibility by not engaging in any risky activities that can spread the virus,” Ferrer said.

Health officials urged residents to avoid parties and to adhere to public safety guidelines, explaining that going to crowded spaces — even if they’re outdoor, like beaches — puts them at risk of contracting the virus.

“We do not need to wait for a vaccine to slow the spread; we just need for every single person to do the right thing,” Ferrer said. “It is nonsense to believe that parties and gatherings are essential for our well-being; parties and gatherings lead to unnecessary exposures and make it that much harder to lower the rate of community transmission so that our children can get back to school and employees back to work.”

L.A. County officials have warned that if beaches get too crowded during the holiday weekend, it may be necessary to close them.

The county recorded another 24 deaths and 1,196 new cases Saturday, bringing the total number of cases to 247,542. 

On Saturday, 984 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 — 32% of them in intensive care units. 

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