L.A. County warns against Halloween gatherings, saying Lakers, Dodgers celebrations may have helped drive uptick

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Fans in Los Angeles celebrate after the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to win the championship on Oct. 11, 2020. (Jintak Han / Associated Press)

Fans in Los Angeles celebrate after the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to win the championship on Oct. 11, 2020. (Jintak Han / Associated Press)

Public health officials are warning against gatherings and celebrations after a backlog in coronavirus testing results concealed a recent rise in infections in Los Angeles County.

The county’s top health official, Barbara Ferrer, on Monday blamed the problem on a computer programming glitch that she said is now fixed. But the backlog and related processing problems led to roller-coaster case numbers for L.A. County and statewide last week.

Fans gathering to watch recent championship sporting events including for the Lakers and Dodgers may have increased the spread, Ferrer said.

“I think it’s really wonderful that we have both incredible teams with so much talent,” she said. “The downside of this is that during the pandemic, some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense.”

Ferrer said gathering in crowds to watch games indoors and even at outdoor restaurants — with people often foregoing face coverings and yelling a lot — is “just not sensible.”

Positive cases in the nation’s most populous county increased this month from an average of 940 per day to nearly 1,200 per day last week.

Later Monday evening, the public health department issued a warning that the risk of virus transmission would be high at gatherings both public and private in the week leading up to Halloween.

Officials say contact tracing over a recent three-week period showed 55% of people who knew where they may have caught COVID-19 had attended an event or gathering where two or more people were sick.

Those who do host gatherings over the holiday week should adhere to the following public health protocols:

  • Hold the gathering outdoors with physical distancing between households
  • Invite a maximum of three households, including your own
  • Everyone must wear a face covering when not eating or drinking
  • Serve food in single-use, disposable containers
  • Keep the event at two hours or less

“There have been too many instances of people unknowingly spreading the virus at these types of gatherings, which, sadly, has led to new infections, serious illness and death,” Muntu Davis, the county’s public health officer, said in a news release. “We can prevent cases, but it will take action from each of us personally and collectively.”

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