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Health officials plead for public support

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The dreadful fall outbreak of the coronavirus in Los Angels County took a turn for the worse this week, as public health officials recorded the highest number of new cases in a single day and the most people hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic.

“We are seeing terrifying increases in numbers in L.A. County that can only be turned around if everybody, business and individuals, carefully uses the tools we have to slow the spread,” Los Angeles Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said. “There are no activities where people should not be wearing a face covering if they are outside their homes.”

However, she was clear to point out that the efforts Angelenos have made are significant when compared with other regions of the country.

“If you still doubt that the science is solid, take a look at what is happening in states where there are no requirements or controls. Unfortunately, these states are experiencing surges and case rates that dwarf those in states with tight control measures,” Ms. Ferrer said.

She cited as an example North Dakota, where there are few controls and the case rate approaches 10,000 cases per 100,000 residents and it is estimated that one in every 800 residents of the state have died of COVID-19. Another state with few controls, Iowa, has a case rate over 7,000 per 100,000. By comparison, California, with some of the tightest controls in the country, has a case rate of approximately 3,000 per 100,000.

“We do have a choice to make, each one of us. Do we want to be part of the solution to this horrifying surge or do we want to be the problem? Because where you fall in this effort now has a life or death consequence—possibly for people you know and love,” Ms. Ferrer said.

The record high number of daily cases occurred on Tuesday when public health officials confirmed 7,593 new infections, vastly surpassing the previous high of 6,124 cases last week. The soaring case rate is a signal that the virus is infecting more people at a faster rate than ever before in L.A. County.

Additionally, there are 2,339 people currently hospitalized, eclipsing the previous peak of 2,232 during the mid-July surge in new cases. The number of people hospitalized with the disease has risen steadily since November 1, when there were just 799 individuals in county hospitals with the virus. The daily test positivity rate has also increased from 7 percent a week ago to 12 percent today.

On Wednesday, Ms. Ferrer reported 5,987 new coronavirus cases and 40 deaths. Cumulative cases in L.A. County now stand at 414,185 and 7,740 deaths. The rate of new cases has increased 225 percent over the last three weeks and deaths have gone up by 94 percent.

Governor Gavin Newsom warned that if the surge in cases is not controlled soon, counties in the most restrictive, purple tier will likely face another sty-at-home order. L.A. County has been in the purple tier all fall, and health officials imposed a limited stay-at-home order effective this week, so it is not clear whether additional restrictions would be required.

In Claremont the outbreak has exploded as well, with 83 new infections since last Wednesday, and 13 in the last 24 hours. Fortunately, the current surge has only resulted in one additional death, so far, bringing our total to 14. Claremont has 761 cumulative cases.

In spite of the surging outbreak and the county’s pleas for everyone to observe the restrictions in the health order, Claremont has joined a growing list of cities where restaurant owners are refusing to abide by the ban on outdoor dining enacted by public health last week.

Last week the COURIER reported that many local restaurants planned to reopen following the Thanksgiving holiday because they could not survive the loss of revenue from another shutdown. Joining the group were a few retail establishments who want to show support, and fear losing foot traffic if people are no longer going out for meals.

A casual drive around the Village on Tuesday evening revealed that about half of the city’s restaurants were serving customers, either on dedicated outdoor patios or in the parklets that were built to take advantage of Claremont’s al fresco program.

Claremont’s Public Information Officer Bevin Handel told the COURIER last week that restaurants could face fines from county inspectors. Additionally, individual citizens may report violations directly to the county, which could result in a response from inspectors.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said during a news conference on Wednesday that even though the L.A. County transmission rate is less than those in San Bernardino and Orange counties, the number of positive cases for the county remains far too high and continues to rise. “Working together we can bring theses numbers down. The risk to our health care system is real,” she said.

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