LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles County continued its surge of COVID-19 cases Friday, reporting 2,481 new infections and issuing a desperate plea for residents to rethink their holiday plans if they intend to travel or hold a large gathering for Thanksgiving.
The county has reported new case numbers topping 2,000 almost every day since last Thursday, a sharp increase from early October, when the county was averaging 988 new cases per day.
The 2,481 cases announced Friday, along with 85 reported by Long Beach health officials and 27 added by Pasadena, lifted the cumulative countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 332,977.
County health officials also announced another 28 coronavirus-related deaths, raising the death toll to 7,246.
A total of 942 people were hospitalized due to the virus as of Friday, a 15% increase from a week ago.
"The current surge in COVID-19 transmission in L.A. County is alarming," public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "If we act now, we can prevent increasing rates of illness and death, stressing our health care system, and further stalling our recovery. If we agree that our collective priority is to reduce transmission of COVID-19 so we can move forward with recovery, then it is clear what needs to be done. We will need to modify holiday plans, change up our routines, and take care of each other."
The state on Friday issued a travel advisory urging residents to avoid non-essential travel. It also recommends that people traveling into California – whether they are visitors or returning residents – from another state or country to self-quarantine for 14 days. Los Angeles County health officials have a similar recommendation on the books, urging residents to travel out of state to quarantine upon their return.
The travel warnings come two weeks in advance of Thanksgiving, which has health officials on edge, fearing that gatherings of families and friends from multiple households could become super-spreader events.
Ferrer told reporters Thursday that residents need to celebrate the holiday in a way that is respective of the pandemic. She said residents should stay at home for the holiday, and if they do gather with other people, the events need to be restricted to three households and be held outdoors for a limited time, with face coverings and social distancing.
She walked through statistics showing increases in the key virus-tracking metrics – case numbers, testing positivity rates, and hospitalizations. The only metric that has not yet shown a sharp increase is the number of deaths, but Ferrer said rising hospitalization numbers will typically lead to more fatalities down the road.
"Unfortunately the continued decrease in deaths is likely to not continue, since we know increases in cases and hospitalizations will actually influence the number of deaths we experience here in the county, and it is likely in the weeks to come that our numbers of deaths will increase as well," Ferrer said.
Ferrer warned Thursday that unless there is a reversal of the sudden surge in cases, the county may be forced to impose more restrictions on businesses and public activity. She didn't elaborate on what those moves might entail, but they could potentially involve more capacity restrictions on indoor retail activity, limits on outdoor dining, possible closure of some types of businesses, and a slowing or halt in allowing select students to return to in-person instruction.
"If collectively we fail to stop the acceleration of new cases, we will have no choice but to look at additional actions," Ferrer said Thursday.
All around the country, elected officials and public health leaders are introducing new requirements to protect health care systems from becoming overwhelmed.
"We've been there before, just four months ago, and we worked really hard to get ourselves back to a place where our health was protected and our recovery journey could continue, and I know none of us wants to step back," Ferrer said. "Which leaves us with one option, and that is to make good choices that reflect the reality of living during a pandemic."