‘Our guidelines are not suggestions’: L.A. County health director says thousands of businesses noncompliant as coronavirus transmissions increase

Local News

As more people are hospitalized with COVID-19, Los Angeles County’s health director on Thursday called on businesses and residents to comply with public safety rules, with a stern warning: “Our guidelines are not suggestions. They are mandates.” 

Inspectors visiting newly reopened businesses over recent weekends found 83% of 3,751 locations visited weren’t in full compliance with the county’s guidelines, which include mandating masks, limiting capacity and rearranging furniture to allow for physical distancing, Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

Most complaints to the L.A. County health department by the public were regarding businesses not displaying a checklist of health and safety rules required, followed by complaints of people not wearing masks as required by the county.

“I know this is difficult. It’s summer, restaurants and bars are open and things seem like they’re back to normal, but they’re not,” Ferrer said. “The virus is deadly, the virus remains in our community, and if we don’t collectively take the necessary steps to be safe, we’ll continue to see people we love get sick, be hospitalized and potentially die.”

She said the department will be “issuing orders for people to come into compliance,” explaining that it’s the first step for opening a formal investigation into the sites.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in L.A. County climbed to 91,467 with 2,012 new cases reported Thursday and another 42 deaths, bringing the countywide death toll to 3,246.

The average age of the people testing positive is trending younger than before, Ferrer said, adding that it could be because younger people are getting tested more and because they’re going out more.

“We not only have an increase in cases — and it’s a significant increase in cases— but we also have an increase in the positivity rate,” Ferrer said.

Mirroring a statewide upward trend, the rate of people testing positive has climbed to 8.5% in the last five days throughout the county.

And while the average daily number of hospitalizations had been steadily decreasing for weeks, it started to increase this week, Ferrer said.

There were 1,633 people hospitalized for the respiratory illness Thursday, 25% of them in intensive care units and 18% on ventilators.

“This is extraordinarily worrisome as it does reflect the result of more community transmission of COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “People are out more, there’s more people becoming infected, and unfortunately, increased cases will always lead us to more hospitalizations.”

When bars, breweries, wineries and lounges reopened in L.A. County, visits to the venues spiked, with hundreds of thousands of people visiting the spots.

Ferrer said that monitoring complaints about noncompliance and the spike in visits to businesses, paired with the latest death, hospitalization and infection rate numbers paints a concerning picture.

“The most important action is to make sure that all of these reopenings that have happened, all of those businesses, all of those sites are coming into compliance with the directives and then that each one of us takes responsibility for doing what we know we need to do to protect each other,” she said.

While the county continues to see a decline in average daily deaths, going from 46 deaths per day in May to 25 a day in June, Ferrer said the increased COVID-19 hospitalizations are of concern and urged residents to follow the guidelines.

“It isn’t just about you as an individual,” Ferrer said. “While you may be healthy and able to overcome COVID-19, your grandmother, your father, your sister or your friend may not be so lucky.”

She warned that contact with others in different households results in an increased risk of coronavirus transmission.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that residents across the state have been hosting more private events at their homes, including family gatherings, play dates and birthday parties, and said it’s increasing the spread of the virus.

He warned Thursday that the state is able to “pause” reopening if necessary.

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