Los Angeles County remains in the midst of a COVID-19 surge due to gatherings and celebrations held over the July 4 holiday.
County officials linked the current situation to the holiday at a Monday briefing and said the only way to avoid another mass shutdown was with large-scale cooperation from the public on health directives including wearing masks and limiting social activity.
“The increase we’ve seen lately in cases for COVID-19 are in part, connected with the Fourth of July activities,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “It will take approximately two to three weeks between when someone is first exposed until they test positive for the virus. As people spend time in their communities and socialize with people who aren’t in their household we will continue to see a higher positive rate. We anticipated, and prepared for these cases, but the virus is here to stay. It is up to us to learn how to coexist with the COVID-19 and adapt our daily lives to protect ourselves and our loved ones.”
Barger defended county efforts to reopen Los Angeles for the July 4 holiday saying at the time, the county met State-issued standards for reopening. She said she stood by the decision to begin reopening businesses and said residents had failed to follow safety measures such as voluntarily limiting their travel and using a mask.
“And when we begin to do a safer-at-home then to safer-at-work and safer-at-the-communities, that doesn’t mean people can let their guard down and I believe that is what happened in addition to the fact that you had Memorial Day as well as protests that were taking place,” she said. “People were not practicing social distancing and in fact, in some cases we’re not wearing mask.”
She said the focus should be on how to handle the current situation, not on questioning how the county responded in the past.
“So you know I think it’s unfortunate for us to be debating what we should have done,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to look forward and recognize what we need to do, and that is to be prepared and continue to recognize that this virus is in our community.”
Officials said preparations for the future include recognizing the need to plan for flu season.
County Health director Barbara Ferrer said the County will roll out flu vaccine campaigns in September.
“This would be the year to make sure you are in fact getting your flu vaccine,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of data on whether people can be sick both with influenza and with COVID-19, but both those illnesses can cause a devastating set of symptoms that can require that people are hospitalized.”
Ferrer said the county is increasing contact tracing efforts to try to slow the spread of the disease but said there are limits to the ability of county agencies to trace everyone that should be contacted due to the size of the outbreak.
“Because of the sheer magnitude of community spread, contact tracing alone cannot slow the spread of this virus, contact tracing is an important tool, we know it can help us flatten the curve. But frankly, at this point in the pandemic, everyone, and every single business needs to do their part to knock down the spread of COVID-19.”
She said it is hard to pinpoint the individual cause of an infection but overall, but the single largest factor in the local surge is individuals interaction with other people who are not following distance and mask rules.
“We do know that the best, most proactive actions at our disposal to contain the spread of this virus is the proper and consistent use of face coverings paired with physical distancing and hand hygiene,” she said. “This is a community effort. We have the power to slow the devastating spread of this virus. We’re going to continue to investigate, contact trace and demand that businesses comply with our health officer orders. But we need our businesses and our residents to do their part.”
The County confirmed nine new deaths Monday and 3,160 new cases of COVID-19. To date, The Department of Public Health has identified 159,045 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 4,104 deaths. Officials said Monday numbers are often out of sync with the rest of the week due to a reporting lag from over the weekend.
For the second straight day, Public Health confirmed the highest number of new hospitalizations reported in a day with 2,232 people currently hospitalized, surpassing Sunday’s count of 2,216 hospitalizations. Of the 2,232 confirmed COVID-19 cases currently hospitalized, 26% of these people are confirmed cases in the ICU and 19% are confirmed cases on ventilators.
Santa Monica has reported 554 cases.