LOS ANGELES – While hailing the Dodgers for bringing its first World Series title in three decades, the county’s public health director said Wednesday people who flocked to the streets or gathered with others to celebrate the win should quarantine, monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and get tested.
Echoing a warning she first issued after the Lakers won the NBA title, Barbara Ferrer stressed that being in close contact with other people who are shouting and not wearing masks raises the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
“As a reminder, people who have been part of celebratory crowds, where they have been in close contact with others, not wearing face coverings and not distancing may have been exposed to COVID-19,” Ferrer said. “And they should all take the following precautions for the next 14 days: remain apart from others as much as possible, get tested and monitor yourself for symptoms of illness.
“If you know that you were in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, please quarantine for the full 14 days, even if you have a negative test result,” she said.
Ferrer repeated oft-cited warnings about the dangers of gathering with people from other households, saying that even innocent-sounding small get- togethers can have tragic consequences. She pointed to a recent case of a wedding in Maine attended by 65 people, one of whom developed symptoms the following day. The wedding has since been deemed the source of 180 known coronavirus infections and at least seven deaths, Ferrer said.
She noted that one wedding attendee was a senior-living facility worker who spread the virus among its residents, seven of whom died. Another attendee worked at a county jail, where 87 people became infected.
“Hopefully, this reinforces the deadly nature of in-person gatherings at this time,” she said. “It may seem harmless to bring a group of people together for a celebration. However, if not done appropriately, this type of gathering, even if only one person was infected, has the potential to result in hundreds of cases of COVID-19. And unfortunately, even worse, it can lead to the deaths of people who had no connection to the event at all.”
The warning came amid heightened local concern about a recent uptick in coronavirus cases. Ferrer noted again that at the beginning of October, the county was averaging about 940 new coronavirus cases per day, but that number is now at nearly 1,200 per day.
The county’s seven-day average daily positivity rate among people tested for the virus has also risen slightly, now reaching 3.4%, up from 3.1% a month ago, she said.
The county has not yet seen a resulting spike in hospitalizations or deaths. Ferrer noted the county’s newer cases are occurring primarily among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill or require hospitalization.
Despite the upticks in daily case numbers and positivity rate, the county on Wednesday reported a drop in the overall transmission rate — or the average number of people a COVID-19 patient infects with the virus. As of Wednesday, the rate was at 0.95, down from 1.04 a week ago. Health officials said keeping the rate below 1.0 is critical to ensure a drop in cases. If the number is above 1.0, cases are anticipated to increase.
The county reported another 20 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday, lifting the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 7,040. Another 1,351 cases were confirmed by the county, raising the total from throughout the pandemic to 303,369 as of Wednesday.
Since the start of the pandemic, health officials have confirmed 5,121 coronavirus cases and 80 deaths in Palmdale; 4,297 cases and 68 deaths in Lancaster; 216 cases and 10 deaths in Quartz Hill; 313 cases and four deaths in Lake Los Angeles; 221 cases and one death in the Littlerock/Pearblossom, Juniper Hills areas; and 189 cases and four deaths in Sun Village. View the latest detailed report here.
A total of 755 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 as of Wednesday, compared to 747 on Tuesday, 767 on Monday and 785 on Sunday.
In recent days, county health officials have warned that people gathering to watch sporting events, either in small gatherings at home or at restaurants with televisions on their outdoor patios, were leading to more coronavirus infections.
Ferrer said Wednesday the simple act of going to a restaurant — even in an outdoor setting — just to dine can increase the risk of becoming ill.
“This makes sense because when people go to restaurants and bars, they often spend a prolonged period of time in the presence of others who are outside their household, without their face covering, (and) they’re often engaged in conversations,” she said. “And those are all strategies for increasing the spread of COVID-19.”
She said that fact highlights the need for residents to strictly adhere to health protocols when they are outside the home and in situations that put them in close contact with others.