L.A. County officials weigh more restrictions, urge residents to cancel holiday travel amid new COVID-19 surge

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Saying Los Angeles County is at “a very dangerous point in the pandemic,” the county’s health director on Monday said officials will be weighing additional restrictions and urged residents to cancel their travel plans.

The county two days in a row recorded more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases over the weekend —numbers not seen since the summer’s surge that led to more COVID-19 deaths and forced officials to roll back reopenings.

This new coronavirus surge may also bring more restrictions.

If the county can’t get the pandemic back under control, officials will “have no choice but to take a hard look at what kinds of restrictions will again limit our ability to intermingle,” Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said in a Monday media briefing.

Restrictions may include implementing new occupancy limits or instituting curfews and, if there is a real threat to the healthcare system, possibly returning to safer-at-home orders, Ferrer said. “But we’re not there yet,” she added.

For now, residents need to go back to following coronavirus safety protocols, avoiding gatherings and stay home as much as possible for the next two to three weeks, officials said.

L.A. County doesn’t have plans to roll back efforts to get students back into schools through the waiver program or at campuses serving high-need students, Ferrer said, explaining that there’s very little coronavirus spread at schools that have reopened for in-person instruction. 

Though the county’s elevated case numbers partly reflect the fact that more people are getting tested across the county, health officials say the region is seeing more virus transmission and younger residents are fueling the increase.

On Monday, the county recorded another 2,795 cases, bringing the countywide total to 342,343 infections with 7,275 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The county’s adjusted coronavirus case rate has nearly doubled from 7.6 new cases per 100,000 people last week to 13.7 new cases per 100,000 this week. The virus positivity rate stands at 5.3%, compared with 3.8% the week before.

More worrisome is the steady increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

There were 1,049 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday — the highest number seen in nearly two months.

“Young people are spreading the virus with disastrous results for our elderly,” Ferrer said.

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the health department urged residents to take “immediate actions,” including rethinking holiday plans, not traveling outside the region, staying home as much as possible and wearing face coverings. Business owners were urged to report any virus outbreaks and ensure there’s no crowding.

The surge seen in L.A. County mirrors that seen throughout the state, with Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announcing he was pulling the “emergency brake” on sector reopenings.

Thirty counties were moved back to a more restrictive tier, with 41 of the state’s 58 counties now in the state’s most-restrictive purple tier. 

Ventura and Orange counties both joined Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino in the purple tier on Monday.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel with positive news about vaccines. So we need to hang together, make sure actions are informed by the science and take better care of each other,” Ferrer said.

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