Los Angeles County could see the daily number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 reach 2,500, and daily deaths could reach 50 if the current surge continues, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday.
“The picture is devastating,” she said during a press briefing, noting that the striking rise in cases “far surpassed” surges seen during the summer months. “If we don’t get this virus under control, it will cost all of us dearly.”
The projections are based on last week’s record high average daily cases of 4,559.
Ferrer noted that the updated “safer-at-home order” that took effect Monday is meant to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The order was announced during Thanksgiving weekend — as residents were urged to avoid travel and limit or cancel gatherings — and will remain in effect for three weeks.
The directive — now the strictest in California — called on residents to stay home “as much as possible” and prohibited gatherings with members outside their household.
This is after health officials shut down outdoor dining at L.A. County restaurants and Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a curfew for all counties in the state’s most restrictive purple tier through Dec. 21.
And on Monday, Newsom also warned that California is on the brink of a wider stay-at-home order and that the state could run out of ICU beds before Christmas.
Local officials will start to see the effects of the Thanksgiving holiday in two weeks, when it will be clear whether cases increase or decrease. Two weeks after that, officials will see the impact on the hospital system, and by early to mid January, deaths will either increase or decrease.
The impacts will depend on “how careful we all were,” Ferrer said.
“The worst scenario is, we didn’t take enough precautions over Thanksgiving and … on top of the surge we’re experiencing right now, we have another surge,” she said. “A surge on top of a surge two weeks from now that leads to even more people needing to be hospitalized and that will translate into an increase in our deaths.”
Currently the county is seeing “distressing” increases in cases, hospitalizations and residents becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, Ferrer said.
On Monday, Ferrer reported 5,150 new coronavirus cases and 17 deaths, bringing the total across the region to 400,919 cases and 7,655 fatalities.
Cases among residents and staff of skilled nursing facilities are also rising dramatically.
Almost one-third of cases among healthcare workers are from those working in skilled nursing facilities, Ferrer said.
Cases among residents of those homes increased by 89% between Nov. 1 and Nov. 21. And more residents are dying: During the week of Nov. 1, 17 residents died, while that number nearly doubled two weeks later, Ferrer noted.
As a result, officials implemented new changes to those facilities to help stem spikes:
- All non-essential indoor visitation will be restricted.
- The county will be offering more direct assistance for difficult outbreaks or outbreaks of high concern.
- Staff will be tested twice weekly.
- Additional support staff will be on hand to assist in data gathering and analysis.
- Additional evaluators will also be added to assist in the daily calls to facilities.
- Additional infection prevention will be implemented.
New safer-at-home restrictions
Here’s what else you need to know about the new restrictions:
Every person at the following sites will have to wear face coverings and keep at least 6 feet from others. The businesses must limit their maximum occupancy:
- Essential retail: 35%
- Non-essential retail, including indoor malls: 20%
- Personal care services, including salons and tattoo and massage parlors: 20%. Services must be offered by appointment only and those that require removing facial coverings are not allowed.
- Libraries: 20%
- Fitness centers operating outdoors: 50%. Patrons may not remove facial coverings during exercise, except while swimming.
- Museums, galleries, zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens operating outdoors: 50%
- Mini-golf, batting cages and go-kart racing operating outdoors: 50%
While beaches, trails and parks will remain open, gatherings are limited to people from one household.
Outdoor playgrounds — except at child care centers and schools — will still be inaccessible again, along with fitness equipment and indoor centers and restrooms, according to L.A. County Parks and Recreation. Team play will also not be allowed.
Drive-in movies, parades and other car events are permitted as long as people belonging to the same household stay inside their vehicles.
Day care and schools that have welcomed students, including those that have received waivers or are offering specialized classes, can remain open while following health protocols.
If there’s an outbreak of three cases or more over two weeks, however, they must close for 14 days.
Playgrounds at child care centers and schools can also remain open.
Church services and protests are exempt from the stricter order, but places of worship are still required to hold services outdoors and implement social distancing protocols.