As the number of new coronavirus infections spiked this week both locally and statewide, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents to stay home, even with more businesses open.
One out of every 400 people in L.A. County has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the mayor said. On Monday, county public health officials said modeling shows about one in 400 L.A. County residents are currently infectious, but the actual number could be anywhere from one in 200 to up to one in 700.
And the virus is trending toward infecting more young people: Angelenos 18 to 40 years old account for 40% of all new infections this week, but represented 33% of new cases a month ago.
“We need to make sure we continue to get tested, and it remains critical that people in every age group practice the vigilance and the personal responsibility of our fight against this,” the mayor said. “It’s an honor system.”
Everyone is still advised to avoid gatherings, wash their hands frequently, wear a face covering in public and physically distance from those outside their household.
Following the reopening of higher-risk businesses, California has seen its highest single-day increases in confirmed cases since the pandemic began. The state says 7,194 new cases were confirmed Tuesday, shattering another record set Monday.
L.A. County also saw record-high increases this week and stands just shy of 89,500 confirmed infections total. But the number of new cases reported Wednesday — 1,260 — is down significantly from Monday’s peak of 2,571.
Another 34 deaths were also reported countywide Wednesday, bringing the total the 3,205.
Garcetti conceded that the reopening of businesses like bars, gyms and salons creates more opportunities for the virus to spread. But he said L.A. must stay in line with neighboring jurisdictions.
“If I closed a gym in Hollywood and people can go to West Hollywood, there’s no public health benefit. There’s only a punishment of those businesses,” he said. “So I focused on trying to make sure businesses know the protocols, that they enact the safety for their workers and their customers.”
The mayor said he believes the city can get through the reopening period “without seeing a huge surge,” but it will depend on everyone staying home and following guidance as much as possible.
And, he said, some things will remain closed for quite some time: “Until we have a vaccine, we probably won’t be 100% open, going back to large stadiums to see concerts or sporting events.”
Another concerning indicator: The rate of people testing positive for the virus has risen to 8.8% in the past week, compared to a cumulative 8% throughout the rest of the pandemic.
This comes as the mayor says L.A. had trouble meeting demands for testing over the past week. Starting Thursday, the city is scaling up capacity at its seven screening sites, from 7,700 tests a day to 13,700 tests, according to Garcetti.
Meanwhile, the county is pushing for more testing to be conducted at health clinics rather than publicly run centers, Garcetti said. The move is meant to bring private insurance into increasingly covering the cost of testing.
Garcetti said the city has spent $70 million so far on testing, which won’t be reimbursed by the federal government.
Even if private insurance is used, there should be no charge for getting a COVID-19 test, the mayor said.
“By law this test is free, and no insurance company can charge you any copay or deductible or a fee for the test. That is the law of the land,” he said. “Adding your insurance information will also allow us to continue offering tests and keep city resources for other COVID-19 response and recovery efforts.”