Officials issue holiday advisory to prevent superspread
Ahead of the normally travel-heavy holiday season, coronavirus infections are skyrocketing in California, which this week became the second state in the country to exceed 1 million positive COVID-19 cases.
On Friday, Nov. 13, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, along with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, issued a travel advisory encouraging residents to remain local for the holiday season and refrain from traveling out-of-state.
“California just surpassed a sobering threshold — 1 million COVID-19 cases — with no signs of the virus slowing down,” Newsom said in a statement released on Friday.
“Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians. Travel increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, and we must all collectively increase our efforts at this time to keep the virus at bay and save lives.”
A short decline in the beginning of fall was quickly followed up with a rise in weekly cases across the state over the last month. Since last week, California now averages about 6,300 new cases a day, which is up from 3,200 cases a day just a month ago.
Hospitalizations increased by 50% since October and the positivity rate is currently at 4.4%, a 70% increase from last month’s 2.6% positivity rate.
According to the advisory, only essential travel is permitted: that includes “work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.”
“If you do not need to travel, you shouldn’t,” Brown said in a statement, noting that travel across California, Oregon and Washington could propagate an even worse spread of the virus. “COVID-19 does not stop at state lines. As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them.”
The new advisory also urged people who participated in out-of-state travel to quarantine for 14 days when they return.
The multi-state advisory comes after a surge of rolled back business reopenings.
California Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced in a recent press briefing that 11 counties regressed to more restrictive tiers on the state’s re-opening plan, warning that more counties could be moved back if the spread continues to surge.
Los Angeles County, which continues to be one of the hottest COVID-19 pits in the country, may see an increase in hospitalizations and deaths if the numbers continue to rise.
On Thursday, LA County Public Health confirmed 2,533 new cases and seven deaths since the previous day. As of Friday, the county has seen a total number of 330,450 positive cases and 7,221 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.
LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that if the uptick continues across the county, Public Health may impose “additional actions” for transmission control. Ferrer declined to elaborate on what these extra steps may be, but she continued to warn the public to follow social distancing protocols.
“We all need to act now. The actions we take today, tomorrow and next week have tremendous impact on the health and well-being of many, many people across the county,” Ferrer said at a media briefing this week. “If collectivel, we fail to stop the acceleration of new cases, we will have no choice but to look at additional actions.”
On Tuesday, California residents all received a smartphone alert noting the significant rise of coronavirus cases after several months of steady numbers.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti this week reminded residents that the spread of infection is primarily driven by increased gatherings, “often between people who aren’t showing symptoms,” and encouraged residents to hold holiday celebrations at home only with people they live with.
This likely led to a sharp uptick of residents heading to the testing site at Dodger Stadium, one of the largest testing sites in the country that has been flooding for the past few weeks, public health officials said.
Thousands of appointments are available daily at Dodger Stadium, but the county this week expanded testing availability this week at other testing sites and is encouraging residents not to flood Dodger Stadium to keep wait times short.
Testing is free for all LA County residents regardless of insurance, income and citizenship. To find a testing site near you, visit https://covid19.lacounty.gov/testing/.