(CN) — The novel coronavirus has infected over 300,000 Los Angeles County residents and killed more than 7,000 — grim milestones certain to be surpassed as flu season kicks off.
LA County’s Covid-19 rate of infection remains stubbornly high, county health officials said. While death rates and hospitalizations are down compared to the summer, cases continue to rise.
The reason? Viewing parties for major sports events that have featured LA teams.
On Oct. 11, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals. Cases began to increase in LA County around the same time, from around 940 new confirmed cases per day to nearly 1,200 per day last week, according to the Department of Public Health.
Later this week, the Los Angeles Dodgers face off against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 6 of the World Series. While the World Series is being played at a single stadium in Arlington, Texas, many fans will find some means to watch the game in social settings in LA.
“There is also the reality of what we think might be contributing the most to the increases we’ve been seeing since early October, and they do correspond with gatherings happening more frequently as people come together with non-household members to watch games,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director with the Department of Public Health. “It wasn’t just the Lakers, or the (LA Clippers), it’s not just basketball. We now have football games happening and of course we’ve had the Dodgers in post-season for quite a few weeks.”
She added: “The downside of this, during a pandemic is some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense.”
Ferrer called the rise in cases a “a recovery journey and a learning journey.”
“We did not predict that the reopening of sports without spectators would create so many opportunities where people might be gathering and not in fact not adhering to the basic safety requirements,” she said.
In the last 24 hours, LA County reported 861 new confirmed cases and 8 new deaths. In total, the virus has infected 300,614 Angelenos and killed 7,001.
It has been over 200 days since LA County and the rest of California issued health guidelines to slow the spread of the virus. The state and the county has seen ups and downs in infections and the impact of the shutdown, reopening, a second shutdown and tiered reopenings is undeniable.
“I don’t think many of us could have predicted how hard this pandemic would hit our communities or that we would still be seeing this many cases eight months in,” said LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn in a statement. “But the reality is, Covid-19 is still here and these heartbreaking milestones should be a reminder to everyone of how contagious and deadly this virus is. We need everyone to do their part and wear masks and avoid close contact with anyone they do not live with.”
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl urged Angelenos to continue with physical distancing and wearing face coverings.
“Reaching this milestone is a sad and powerful reminder that we are not doing everything we can, individually and collectively, to protect ourselves and others. Please. This is serious,” Kuehl said. “Wear a mask when you go out. Keep six feet of distance between you and others. Avoid contact with people outside your own household. Cases and fatalities will continue to rise until every resident does what is necessary to bring the virus under control.”
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said the “the lack of a coherent national response to Covid-19 has led to the 225,000 deaths in the U.S., and while California has avoided being part of the latest surge, we cannot grow complacent.”
LA County remains in the most restrictive tier under the state’s health guidelines due to widespread infection, but on Monday some LA County schools qualified to resume in-class lessons with limited student attendance and infection control guidelines approved by the Department of Public Health.
As of Monday, 767 people are hospitalized, 29% of whom are in intensive care. Out of over 3 million tests done in LA County so far, 9% came back positive.
Louise McCarthy, president of the nonprofit Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County, said people coming in for Covid tests should also get their flu shot.
“We call it the swab and stick,” McCarthy said in a phone interview. “We know that making it as easy as possible is vital. If you made the effort to get tested, you should get the flu shot.”
McCarthy’s group represents clinics in low-income communities and serves around 1.7 million patients a year.
“By and large, Angelenos are doing the best job they can in the situation they’re in,” said McCarthy. “We just want to make sure that everyone is getting tested and their flu shots.”