LOS ANGELES – On a day the Dodgers could clinch a World Series title, Los Angeles County residents were being warned Tuesday that large public celebrations or even small private game-watching or celebratory gatherings can become super-spreaders of COVID-19.
The county’s health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, issued a health advisory Monday night warning of the dangers of public or private gatherings.
“We have a lot to celebrate in the county, and it is critical that we all take action to slow the spread as we do,” Davis said in a statement. “That means not participating in public celebrations of any kind, which are high-risk. There have been too many instances of people unknowingly spreading the virus at these types of gatherings, which, sadly, has led to new infections, serious illness and death.
“We can prevent cases, but it will take action from each of us personally and collectively,” he said.
Davis did not point to any specific examples — such as a hundreds-strong gathering of Laker fans in downtown Los Angeles following the team’s NBA title win — but referenced only “private gatherings and public celebrations.”
The county recently amended its health order to set guidelines for small private gatherings — which were previously barred under the order but which health officials acknowledged were occurring anyway. The county’s updated guidance allows for gatherings of members of up to three households, but such get-togethers must be held outdoors with face coverings and physical distancing.
Earlier Monday, county public health director Barbara Ferrer reported a disturbing increase in average daily coronavirus cases. She said daily virus cases were averaging about 940 per day in early October, but in the past week, the average has been almost 1,200 per day. The county on Tuesday reported nearly 1,600 new cases.
Ferrer pointed directly to sports viewing as a driver of case increases, saying the spikes “do correspond with gatherings happening more frequently as people come together with non-household members to watch games.”
“And it wasn’t just the Lakers or the Clippers. It’s not just basketball,” Ferrer said. “We now have football games that are happening and of course we’ve had the Dodgers in post-season for quite a few weeks already.
“… I think it’s really wonderful that we have both incredible teams with so much talent and also incredible spirit amongst people in L.A. County who root with their hearts and their souls for their teams to do well,” she said.
“The downside of this is during a pandemic some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense. Gathering in large crowds to watch games indoors, people aren’t wearing their face coverings, people are yelling a lot. That’s just not sensible. Even gathering outdoors at dining areas and watching games with hundreds of people and celebrating by jumping up and down with no masks on, hugging perfect strangers, again with a lot of shouting and cheering. It’s so easy to spread this virus.”
With younger residents driving the county’s new case increases, Ferrer said gatherings of sports fans appear to be “contributing the most” to the spike.
The Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that its inspectors over the past week saw multiple health violations by restaurant customers who were “watching sporting events such as the World Series on television.” Health officials urged restaurants, wineries and breweries showing sporting events on outdoor televisions to strictly enforce requirements, including a ban on customers gathering around televisions.
Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning that recently reopened wineries and breweries were making a good effort to comply with health regulations, but some were struggling to maintain required physical distancing among customers.
The county on Tuesday announced 29 new coronavirus-related deaths, increasing the countywide death toll since the start of the pandemic to 7,029. The county also reported 1,586 new cases, raising the cumulative total during the pandemic to 302,202.
There were a total of 747 people hospitalized due to the virus as of Tuesday, down from 767 on Monday and 785 on Sunday.