Los Angeles County health officials said on Wednesday that COVID-19 is believed to be infected in every 80 counties as transmission rates continue to increase after Thanksgiving.
County health officials have issued strong warnings against future ceremonial gatherings, as California became the first U.S. state to report more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. With more than 1.6 million cases in California this week, health officials said there were a total of 539,097 cases in Los Angeles County – not including the Long Beach or Pasadena cases – and 8,127 virus deaths since the pandemic began.
According to county health officials, the new cases that have occurred recently are the result of residents ignoring recommendations to stay home during Thanksgiving.
“We are experiencing an explosive and very deadly surge and we urgently urge everyone to do everything they can to slow down the transmission and prevent further suffering,” Barbara Ferrer, director of public health at the Los Angeles County Health Agency, said in a press conference on Wednesday. Ferrer said COVID-19 hospital care in Los Angeles County has increased about 385 percent since early November, causing hospital capacity to “drop to alarming levels.” On average, two county residents die every hour from COVID-19, he said.
“We have learned a hard and painful lesson from our actions over the Thanksgiving days. Please don’t repeat the same mistakes as we move into our next holiday season,” Ferrer said.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services with the Los Angeles County Health Agency, told a news conference that reducing COVID-19 across the county will “cause enormous torment.”
“Slowing the spread of the virus when every 1,000 people are infected and infecting others is a whole different story and astronomically easier than slowing the spread of the virus when one in every 80 people becomes infected and infects others,” Ghaly said. “And this last situation, one of the 80’s, we’re here today.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new home retention order earlier this month that all five regions of the state must fall if the capacity of the intensive unit falls below 15 percent. Due to the spread of the virus in Southern California, it quickly submitted to the new order, and the capacity of the intensive care unit was already 1.7 percent on Tuesday.
In anticipation of further attacks on the deaths of COVID-19, Newsom said earlier this week that the state had ordered thousands of body bags to a handful of Southern California counties, including Los Angeles. The Institute for Health Measurement and Evaluation estimates that California could exceed the total COVID-19 mortality by spring, with health officials across the state expected to report 54,000 by early April.
“We can’t afford to see another festive wave that is flooding our already tense hospital system,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a tweet on Wednesday. “Please stay home as much as possible, wear a face mask, and don’t gather.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Health repeated Ferrer’s earlier statements when Newsweek contacted the department for further comment.
“Please cancel vacation plans that involve travel or gathering with friends and family that don’t belong in your household,” Ferrer said Wednesday. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who have put off travel plans and stay home. I suggest I hear that big holiday parties are canceled. That’s the smart thing. It’s just too risky to mix with others in the household.”