LOS ANGELES (CN) — With over 6,100 new Covid-19 cases reported in Los Angeles County on Monday — the highest daily total ever — a new safer-at-home order appears more and more likely in a region where the novel coronavirus shows no signs of abating.
The county reported 6,124 new cases, roughly 1,500 of which were carried over from the weekend according to LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. She sounded somewhat deflated during a Monday briefing as she recounted the high numbers.
“We’ve never reported 6,000 cases in one day. We never reported over 3,200 cases in one day until last week,” said Ferrer. “This acceleration is going to require us once again to make, what is for many people, devastating sacrifices so we can go back to slowing the spread.”
Over 360,000 people in LA County have tested positive for Covid-19 and over 7,400 are dead since the pandemic began. Since late October, the average number of daily cases has more than doubled.
Monday’s figures come after LA County health officials ordered restaurants, breweries and bars to cease outdoor dining beginning Wednesday, because the county recorded an average of more than 4,000 new daily cases over a five-day period.
The announcement drew sharp rebukes from the hospitality industry and at least one county supervisor, who said the move is too rash even with the recent surge in cases.
“Increased case counts are not coming from businesses reopening but from large gatherings where people aren’t wearing masks,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger in a statement. “We aren’t helpless in slowing the spread of Covid-19 and can protect ourselves and our neighbors by maintaining physical distancing and wearing face coverings.”
The economic fallout from the stay-at-home order this past March wounded businesses across the county. The Independent Hospitality Coalition, which is made up restaurants across LA, called plans to block outdoor dining drastic and blamed health officials for looking for an “easy target to place the blame for the spread of Covid-19.”
It’s unclear what sectors are fueling the surge in new cases, but the hope is that stopping in-person dining on outdoor patios where people often socialize will slow the spread of the virus.
In a statement, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said she agreed with the measure, saying it is necessary to avoid overrunning hospitals.
“Outdoor restaurants are the only place where people are permitted to sit for hours without masks while servers do not maintain physical distance in order to take orders and serve food,” said Kuehl. “Given our case load, I strongly believe this was a smart and responsible decision that puts people’s lives above all other considerations.”
The problem is not isolated to where people eat as worksites like warehouses have reported increased confirmed infections. Even the LA County Superior Court has had a problem with people keeping their face masks on and keeping far enough from strangers while inside a courthouse.
“Despite a general order requiring the use of face masks and social distancing mandates, attorneys, litigants and others routinely remove their masks and fail to observe social distancing while in our courthouses,” said Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile in a statement.
Starting Nov. 30, public access to all county courthouses will be limited and sheriff's deputies will enforce the wearing of face masks. People will also be required to not gather or speak with others in hallways or in other public areas inside courthouses.
Yet despite the surge, Ferrer said health officials will not institute a mask mandate and will instead rely on county officials to issue citations to noncompliant businesses.
Health inspectors have found most businesses are in compliance with staff wearing face coverings and infection control but many fail to require physical distancing of patrons on patios and sidewalks. Ferrer said about 20% of restaurants were out of compliance in this regard, meaning there were roughly 6,000 sites across LA County where strangers could be in close contact.
The news of the last few days unfolded a week after the county announced a set of guideposts for determining when to issue new health orders.
Over the weekend the county tripped its first threshold, when the five-day daily case average topped 4,000. But Monday’s record-breaking update tripped a second threshold that may result in a new stay-at-home order for 10 million Angelenos.
At the time, Ferrer guessed the county wouldn’t reach either waypoint until December.
It’s unclear what shape a new stay-at-home order will take, but it will be in place for three weeks and only allow “essential and emergency workers” to leave their homes. Ferrer said the next order would be targeted and not like the March stay-at-home order, because health experts know so much more about the virus.
The LA County Board of Supervisors will take up the issue at their Tuesday meeting.
Ferrer did not elaborate if or when the new health order would be implemented. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the board decides to do tomorrow,” she said.
She urged students traveling home for Thanksgiving to quarantine for 14 days. And the same goes for California Governor Gavin Newsom after he and his family were exposed to a police officer who tested positive for Covid-19 last week.
On Monday, California reported over 8,300 new cases and 50 new deaths. So far, Governor Gavin Newsom and his family aren’t among the new cases though they will be quarantining for the next two weeks after his children had contact with a California Highway Patrol officer who tested positive.
“Anyone that's grown to be with their kids, isolated or quarantined, for many, many days, it is a very challenging and trying time,” said Newsom during a Covid-19 briefing from his home.
“I’ve been tested a lot the last few weeks,” said Newsom during the briefing hampered by a spotty internet connection. “I feel perfectly healthy. I tested negative yesterday and have no expectation that I’ll test any differently.”
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