1 in 80 LA County residents have COVID, health officials blame Thanksgiving

Los Angeles County health officials said Wednesday that one in 80 county residents will be infected with COVID-19 as transmission speeds continue to soar in the wake of Thanksgiving.

County health officials starkly warned of future holiday gatherings as California became the first US state to report more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in one day. With the total number of cases in California exceeding 1.6 million this week, health officials said Los Angeles County had a total of 539,097 cases – not counting the reported cases in Long Beach or Pasadena – and 8,127 virus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic .

According to county health officials, the recent rise in the number of new cases is due to residents ignoring recommendations to stay home over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“We are experiencing an explosive and very deadly wave, and there is an urgent request for everyone to do everything in their power to slow transmission and prevent additional suffering,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. Health Agency during a Wednesday press conference. Ferrer said COVID-19 hospital admissions in Los Angeles County have increased by about 385 percent since the beginning of November, reducing hospital capacity “to alarming levels.” On average, two county residents die from COVID-19 every hour, she said.

The Los Angeles coronavirus was spreading
Los Angeles County health officials estimated on Wednesday that one in 80 county’s residents has contracted COVID-19. In the photo above, people are waiting in line at a COVID-19 testing center in Los Angeles, California, on December 8, 2020.
FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP via Getty Images

“We learned a hard and painful lesson from our actions during Thanksgiving. Please, let’s not repeat the same mistakes as we enter our next holiday season,” Ferrer said.

Health Services Director, Dr. Christina Ghaly, of the Los Angeles County Health Agency, said at the press conference that reducing COVID-19 spread throughout the county will be “a huge deal of trouble.”

“Slowing the spread of a virus when one in 1,000 is infected and infecting others is a whole different story and astronomically easier than slowing the spread of a virus when one in 80 people is infected and others infected,” Ghaly said. “And that last situation, one in 80, is where we are now.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new house arrest earlier this month that would cover each of the state’s five regions once their ICU capacity fell below 15 percent. Southern California quickly fell under the new order due to the spread of the virus and had 1.7 percent ICU capacity on Tuesday.

In anticipation of new spikes in COVID-19 deaths, Newsom said earlier this week that the state had ordered the delivery of thousands of body bags to a handful of Southern California counties, including Los Angeles. Estimates from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation suggest that California will more than double the total number of COVID-19 deaths by the spring, with health officials across the state expected to report as many as 54,000 by early April.

“We can’t afford to see another vacation spike that will overwhelm our already tense hospital system,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a Wednesday tweet. “Please stay at home as much as possible, wear your face covering and don’t gather.”

The Los Angeles County Department of Health echoed Ferrer’s earlier statements when Newsweek contacted the department for further comment.

“Please cancel any vacation plans that involve traveling or getting together with friends and family who are not part of your household,” Ferrer said Wednesday. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who have postponed travel plans and stay at home. I find it encouraging to hear that big holiday parties are being canceled. That’s a smart thing to do. It’s just too risky to mingle with others outside of your household.”