Possibility of new stay-at-home order looms in L.A. County as coronavirus cases surge with more gatherings

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In a news conference Wednesday, Los Angeles County officials reiterated their warning of another stay-at-home order if the rate of increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the region continues into December.

Authorities had already announced limits on hours and occupancy for businesses effective Friday. But with the Thanksgiving holiday just a week away, the county’s top health officer underscored the need to stop the community transmission of the virus to avoid further pandemic restrictions.

Here’s the latest from L.A. County officials:

Surge in cases traced to gatherings

The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this graph on Nov. 18, 2020 showing the rise of coronavirus cases between April and November 2020.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this graph on Nov. 18, 2020 showing the rise of coronavirus cases between April and November 2020.

The county reported a daily average of more than 2,800 coronavirus cases over a five-day period — a three-fold spike over the last month, according to an L.A. Times analysis.

More than 1,100 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, the county said. That’s more than a 40% increase from two weeks ago. The last time hospitalizations exceeded 1,100 was in late August, according to the Department of Public Health.

The most recent spike can be traced back to community transmission of the coronavirus in late October, Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said Wednesday.

The county also released a graph showing jumps in the number of cases that coincide with business reopenings, as well as celebrations of the Lakers’ and Dodgers’ championship wins in October.

Amid the flu season, Ghaly also urged residents to get immunized, if they haven’t already, to save hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

A Los Angeles Times graph shows the rising number of COVID-19 patient hospitalizations and intensive care unit stays between April and November 2020.
A Los Angeles Times graph shows the rising number of COVID-19 patient hospitalizations and intensive care unit stays between April and November 2020.

New limits on businesses and outdoor gatherings effective Friday, Nov. 20

The latest surge in cases and hospitalizations prompted officials on Tuesday to announce new limits on businesses starting the end of the week. The county wanted to provide them three days to make operational changes, county Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

“I think that’s a respectful way to to move this forward,” she said. “I’m going to say that the changes that are under each individual’s [responsibility] should happen right now.”

Here are the updates to the county health order effective Friday:

The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this list of updates to its health order effective Nov. 20, 2020.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this list of updates to its health order effective Nov. 20, 2020.

More restrictions if rate of increase in cases, hospitalizations continues

If current trends continue, the daily average of coronavirus cases could exceed 4,000 and hospitalizations could reach between 1,600 and 2,600 in December, Ferrer said.

County officials warned that outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will again be prohibited if the five-day, daily average of cases reaches 4,000 or if daily hospitalization exceeds 1,750.

If the five-day, daily average of cases hits 4,500 or if daily hospitalization reaches 2,000, the county would impose a “safer at home order” for three weeks. That means only essential workers or people seeking essential services could leave their homes, and a curfew of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. will apply to everyone but essential workers.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this list on Nov. 18, 2020 of further action that would be taken if coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to increase.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this list on Nov. 18, 2020 of further action that would be taken if coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to increase.

COVID-19 death rates are dropping, but they could still rise

The silver lining to the pandemic: Health professionals continue to gain better knowledge and improve practices while taking care of COVID-19 patients.

“The continued decrease in deaths is likely in part because of improvements in treatment for people who are seriously ill from COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “At the same time, you should expect that with the rapid increases in cases and hospitalizations, it is also likely that we will tragically, see increases in people passing away.”

The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this graph on Nov. 18, 2020 showing a drop in coronavirus deaths.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health released this graph on Nov. 18, 2020 showing a drop in coronavirus deaths.

Health officials urge safe celebration of Thanksgiving

Ferrer strongly urged people not to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday, suggesting those far away from loved ones to connect virtually.

Those who do gather in person should do so outdoors while following the county’s guidelines for small private gatherings, the health director said. She also urged people who are able to donate to food pantries as the pandemic continues to take a financial toll on many.

“It’s been a strange and difficult year. … Thank you L.A. County for continuing to work together, for sacrificing for others and doing what it takes to get through this difficult time,” Ferrer said.

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