With coronavirus transmission in the region on the rise in the wake of Halloween and presidential election celebrations, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday urged residents to take steps to halt the spread.
The mayor’s address comes a day after county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned that the opening of schools and businesses could be impacted by a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
“This isn’t a blip any longer. This isn’t an ‘Oh we just had one bad weekend and now we’re getting it back under control,’” Ferrer said. “This is now a surge in our cases, and if it continues it will be quite alarming to go into our coldest months seeing this level of increase in cases.”
Throughout the pandemic, case surges have been followed by increases in hospitalizations and deaths. Los Angeles is among many places where cases are currently spiking nationwide.
On Tuesday, officials confirmed another 2,300 new coronavirus cases in the county with 25 additional deaths. That brings the total to date to nearly 325,900 cases and 7,200 fatalities.
In a bid to help contain the current surge, the city is increasing capacity and extending hours at its testing sites, Garcetti said in a livestreamed briefing.
On Tuesday, just shy of 19,000 people were tested — more than on any other single day since the pandemic began, according to Garcetti.
While that’s still shy of the sites’ capacity of up to 24,000 people a day, the mayor said capacity would be extended further to 32,400.
Locations will also now be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., instead of until 2 p.m., while the massive drive-thru site at Dodger Stadium will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Garcetti encouraged people to get tested if they think there’s any possibility they may have been exposed.
An emergency text alert was sent to cellphones citywide around 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to provide information on testing resources. The mayor said it’s not to notify someone they have symptoms — it’s a reminder to get tested if they do.
“Anybody who needs a test can get it, and anybody who has a test can use that information to stop the spread,” he said.
Visit coronavirus.lacity.org/testing to schedule a testing appointment.
Garcetti called the latest data “truly concerning,” noting that people will be spending more time indoors as the weather cools.
The mayor said several indicators are headed in the wrong direction, including the county’s transmission rate, which rose from 0.95 to 1.02 last week. The figure represents the number of people each coronavirus patient infects, and when the value is greater than one it means the virus is spreading faster than it can be contained.
“This should be a bright flashing light to all of us to control our behavior to not do stupid things,” Garcetti said. “We know what works, and we know how to stop this. We must stop this increase right now.”
Over 10% of people who tested positive in the last week in L.A. County told contact tracers they’d been at a gathering with more than 10 people, according to the mayor.
“That translates to 1 million people gathering with people outside their households,” he said. “Those actions have made a patchwork of hotspots that could soon blanket our city.”
Citing Thanksgiving guidance released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Garcetti urged Angelenos to follow suit in celebrating virtually or only with members of their own household.
In L.A. County, public health orders permit only small private gatherings of no more than three households, held outdoors for two hours or less.
“This year, we should not be traveling to visit family and other cities or hosting family from out of town,” Garcetti said.