Public health officials reported more than 6,000 new coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County on Monday, breaking its single-day record for new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began as a relentless surge of infections continues to build across nearly every state in the country.
The 6,124 new coronavirus cases reported Monday marked the biggest one-day case increase in the county and brought the total number of confirmed cases to 370,636 with 7,446 deaths.
While that total included 1,500 backlogged cases, officials said they were still concerned about the growing surge.
“Unfortunately, with such huge increases in the number of cases, we’re not confident that these numbers will decrease this week,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a news conference Monday, noting that actions taken today will only result in changes in daily case counts that won’t be seen for two to three weeks.
With daily infection numbers climbing faster than ever before, “it’s just much easier for people to become infected,” Ferrer said.
Between Nov. 7 to Nov. 20, the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19 rose 61%, worrying officials that the “increasing numbers could potentially lead to overwhelming the health care system.”
The county’s five-day average of daily new coronavirus cases has exceeded 4,500, the benchmark that public health officials said would trigger a new stay-at-home order for three weeks, only allowing essential and emergency workers to leave their homes.
Ferrer, however, did not immediately implement a stay-at-home order, saying that health officials “will be working with the Board [of Supervisors] to determine additional safety modifications.” In addition, she said the new order will not be exactly like the one issued in March.
The number of new cases confirmed daily has been surging rapidly — at a faster rate now than during June and July, health officials said.
“From June 20 to July 3, average daily cases increased 43%,” Ferrer said. “From Oct. 31 through Nov. 13 average daily cases increased 108%, which is a much more rapid surge in cases than what we saw in the summer, and this does not include the latest case numbers from the past week.”
With the five-day case average already topping 4,000, the county on Sunday issued a modified health order that will suspend outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars. The order is set to take effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger on Monday said she was against any further restrictions on restaurants, which have been devastated by the pandemic and subsequent closures.
“Businesses throughout the County have invested thousands of dollars to ensure safety for their employees and customers only to be punished for the recent surge they have done everything in their power to prevent,” Barger stated in a news release. “Businesses have made incredible sacrifices to align with safety protocols to remain open in order to pay their bills and feed their families… We’ve come a long way to support workers and residents who are struggling to stay afloat and should not regress on the progress we’ve made.”
Barger said that a small percentage, between 10% to 15% of positive cases, have been the result of dining out with someone who has tested positive, but a far higher number of cases have come out of people attending private social gatherings — more than 50%.
“Increased case counts are not coming from businesses reopening, but from large gatherings where people aren’t wearing masks,” Barger added. “We aren’t helpless in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and can protect ourselves and our neighbors by maintaining physical distancing and wearing face coverings.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, however, agreed with county health officials on the need for restrictions, including the end to in-person dining.
“Outdoor restaurants are the only place where people are permitted to sit for hours without masks while servers do not maintain physical distance in order to take orders and serve food,” Kuehl said in a statement Monday. “Given our case load, I strongly believe this was a smart and responsible decision that puts people’s lives above all other considerations.”