LA County cracks down on businesses, infection rate among younger adults increases

As Californians grow more restless over the coronavirus pandemic, the state continues to break its own records.

This week, California now, cumulatively, has the most COVID-19 cases in the country with over 409,000 cases, surpassing New York, the former leader in cases, according to the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Photo by Viviana Rishe on Unsplash

On Wednesday, July 22 alone, 157 deaths were recorded, marking it as the state’s highest one-day toll so far, pushing fatalities up to 8,000. By Friday, July 24, 9,718 new cases were reported and the statewide 7-day average shot up to 9,881 cases per day, up by nearly 1,000 from the previous week.

The rise in cases and deaths, coupled with the public’s growing impatience with the stay-at-home order.Los Angeles County, in particular, has been scrambling to remedy the disaster-level increases in cases and viral transmission. The county reported 44 new deaths and 1,949 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday. (According to the county, the case number reflects a tally lower than the actual number “due to lab result reporting delays in the state electronic lab system” and that the number of cases is expected to increase in the coming days.)

But despite widespread frustration with the limitations of stay-at-home orders, officials are now considering a second, stricter iteration of the order.

On Thursday, July 23, LA County, which continues to see increased cases and deaths, announced a new crackdown on businesses that violate COVID-19 protection protocols and mandates. That means businesses that don’t comply with the statewide face covering or social distancing mandates will be fined between $100 to $500 starting at the end of August.

So far 100 businesses were shut down, LA County Public Health reported.

“We want to be reasonable and work with business owners, but we also know that time is of the essence to slow the spread of this virus and protect the health of workers, customers and their families,” Barbara Ferrer, LA County Public Health Director, said.

Notably, the rate of infection among younger residents is increasing as well. According to state officials, 70% of positive cases are among individuals under the age of 49. Although younger people are less likely to severely suffer from the COVID-19 virus, they can still transmit the virus to those who are more vulnerable to the fatal effects of the virus.

“The hospitalizations among younger adults are increasing, but 75% percent of those who are dying right now are still older adults. This is alarming and all these numbers represent individual people who are missed, who are loved and who are unwell,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, LA County’s Health Officer.

In April, California lawmakers were hailed as leaders in the battle to contain the pervading pandemic.

California was the first state to institute its own emergency shelter-in-place order, shutting down most “non-essential” businesses and encouraging all residents to wear face masks and only leaving the house if absolutely necessary.

This resulted in relatively low case and death numbers compared to those of states like New York and New Jersey that looked to California for advice on how to mitigate the spread.

But by June, California became a hotbed of the virus, a sharp spike in COVID-19 transmission that coincided with the re-opening of large swaths of the economy that began on May 8. Though it was designed to be a “slow reopening” with a roadmap, the reopening of shops, restaurants, grooming services, gyms and bars — that were supposed to mandate social distancing and face coverings — led to more and more people physically socializing.

Throughout the summer, more and more groups of Californians started breaking social distancing rules. Californians across the state participated in family gatherings, nightlife and dinner outings and other social convocations in which bodies congregate in close quarters, leading to the conclusion that residents’ frustrations with safer-at-home orders outweighed the collective effort to shrink disease transmission via quarantining.

Nicholas Jewell, a biostatistics expert at UC Berkeley, told the Los Angeles Times that California “started to exit shelter-in-place sometime around Memorial Day, both emotionally and physically, and we are paying the price for that.”

He continued, “It’s like we should be tip-toeing out on the ice [when] what we did instead was all run out on the ice, some not too cautiously. And a lot of people fell through the ice.”

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