‘We all need to act now’: L.A. County grapples with new coronavirus surge as Thanksgiving approaches

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Faced with a new coronavirus surge and again urging residents to take precautions as another holiday approaches, Los Angeles County officials on Thursday said the region is expected to stay in the state’s most restrictive reopening tier for weeks.

L.A. County has seen a “consistent and significant” increase in the number of cases confirmed daily, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a news conference, telling residents “we all need to act now.”

“If collectively we fail to stop the acceleration of cases, we will have no choice but to look at additional actions,” Ferrer said. “All around the country, elected officials and public health leaders are introducing new requirements to protect health care systems from becoming overwhelmed. We’ve been there before. Just four months ago.”

The health director didn’t specify what actions the county is considering.

The county recorded 2,533 new coronavirus cases Thursday — a continuation of an alarming trend that brought more than 2,000 daily cases on six of the previous seven days, according to L.A. County Department of Public Health data.

On Nov. 3, the average number of daily cases was 1,464. A month before, it was was 988. “Simply put, this is more than the 33% increase in daily cases and we have seen no recent signs of any decreases in our case numbers,” Ferrer said.

The “deeply troubling” increase in virus infections coincides with the county reopening additional sectors, as well as several large outbreaks at work sites and more residents going out and gathering with others, Ferrer said.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, officials said it’s important that everyone avoids traveling and gathering with more than two other households so as to not exacerbate the spread. Those who do travel out of state need to quarantine for 14 days.

“I know none of us wants to step back, which leaves us with one option, and that is to make good choices that reflect the reality of living during a pandemic,” Ferrer said.

The health director said that she herself will miss out on traveling to see her grandchildren during the holiday.

“Like all of you, I wish things were really different, but they’re not,” Ferrer said. “And I my feeling is, I don’t want to be one of the people that’s contributing to not only increasing cases that restrict our ability to continue with our recovery journey, but increasing cases that could result in other people getting sick, and even dying.”

As she has for months, Ferrer urged L.A. County residents to follow mask and physical distancing guidelines and avoid crowds amid the renewed alarm over the pandemic’s trajectory.

Ferrer told residents not to treat a negative coronavirus test as a go-ahead to gather with others days later. “That strategy doesn’t work. When you test today, and you are negative today, you’re only negative today,” she explained.

After a long period of stabilization, COVID-19 hospitalizations are once again on the rise.

There were 953 L.A. County residents hospitalized for the respiratory illness throughout the county Thursday — the most since daily COVID-19 hospitalizations last week passed 800 for the first time since mid-September.

Though there’s not yet been an increase in COVID-19 deaths, the health department expects to see an uptick in the coming weeks since more people are being hospitalized for the respiratory illness, Ferrer said.

“While we’ve made impressive strides and caring for people who are ill with the virus, this much of an increase in cases may very well result in tremendous suffering and tragic deaths down the road,” she said.

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