As officials plead with Angelenos to stay home and not hold the traditional celebratory gatherings for New Year’s Eve, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Thursday highlighted the deadly toll the COVID-19 pandemic is taking in the region.
“#Every10Minutes someone dies of COVID-19 in LA County,” the agency tweeted. “People who were loved and will be missed. Until we slow the spread, the next person to tragically pass away could be someone you know.”
To underscore the point, the department every 10 minutes has been tweeting an example of a person dying from the coronavirus, along with messages urging people to follow the county’s health and safety guidelines.
The series of tweets began at midnight and will continue at 10-minute intervals for 24 hours. They are meant to highlight the kinds of losses felt by families, friends and others during the pandemic, according to the L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
“It is really meant to help us both honor all the people who have passed away, but also serve as a reminder that each of us has a responsibility and an opportunity to save lives as we enter into the new year,” she said at the county’s coronavirus briefing on Thursday.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti has warned that the city will be enforcing public health rules that bar large gatherings. The Los Angeles Police Department “will have a significant deployment,” Garcetti said as he urged people to cancel their plans and celebrate virtually.
Officials are trying to get people to stay home for New Year’s Eve amid an ongoing surge of coronavirus cases that have overwhelmed hospitals and pushed the county’s death toll past 10,000. And even as the circulation of the COVID-19 vaccine provides a glimmer of hope, officials have repeatedly warned that holiday travel and celebrations will lead to a worsening outbreak.
“Unfortunately, given the amount of travel and holiday intermingling that may be happening over this winter holiday, we all need to be prepared for another surge that will start with even higher case numbers in January,” Ferrer said Wednesday. “Increasing cases always translates to more and more people being rushed to already overcrowded hospitals and tragically, also results in more people continuing to die.”
The county surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, when an another 274 fatalities were reported. The situation is so dire that many mortuaries in the region have run out of space to store bodies.
“This is causing a backup of dead bodies at a variety of facilities and hospitals across the county,” Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.
The L.A. County Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner, which had more than 380 open spaces to store bodies as of Tuesday, is now assisting. The coroner’s office will be receiving help from the National Guard starting next week, according to officials.