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Existing recommendations include avoiding contact and interaction with folks outside their households

If you were planning on hosting a house party sometime soon, it might be a good idea to cancel it now; if not for the volume of data proving large gatherings increase the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission, do it to avoid getting fined or worse.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Tuesday, August 4 issued a “legally binding health officer order that prohibits gatherings, including parties, during the coronavirus pandemic in order to protect the health and the lives of county residents.”

The county’s statement was a direct response to a large party held in Beverly Crest on Mulholland Drive on Monday, Aug. 3 that featured hundreds of attendees without masks and appearing to neglect social distancing rules.

The LAPD responded to neighbors’ complaints about the party, but since the LAPD does not enforce public health regulations and the party was a private affair, they did not intervene.

“Violation of or failure to comply with the Health Officer Order is a crime punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both and the Department of Public Health works with residents, businesses, city officials and law enforcement to be sure residents are aware of and adhere to life-saving directives in the order,” the public health department wrote in a statement.

Details about the party itself are unclear, but hours into the party, a 35-year-old mother of three children was shot and killed after an unknown assailant opened fire during the party. LAPD confirmed that another woman and a man were suffering from gunshot wounds; and, the shooting is currently regarded as a “gang-related homicide,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

On Wednesday, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city will have the Department of Water and Power shut off service at a home that has thrown a large party.

“Starting on Friday night if the LAPD responds and verifies that a large gathering is occurring at a property and we see these properties re-offending time and time again, they will provide notice and initiate the process to request that DWP shut off service within the next 48 hours,” he said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, public health officials have urged LA County residents to follow the pandemic guidelines: wear face coverings in public, stand 6 feet away from others, only go outside if necessary (e.g. you work for an “essential” business/industry) and to avoid large gatherings of people.

Large public events like concerts and sporting events have been banned per the stay-at-home order, but the county’s new announcement extends punishment for violating public health regulations to family parties and house gatherings like the one on Mulholland Drive.

“The high-risk settings are large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and where face coverings are not worn,” the department continued in their statement. “The consequences of these large parties ripple throughout our entire community because the virus can quickly and easily spread.”

As previously reported in the Asian Journal, the virus can be transmitted from human to human through droplets from the nose and mouth. If someone contracts the virus but shows no symptoms, that person may still pass the virus onto someone who is immunocompromised or more likely to suffer the more severe effects of COVID-19.

LA County still holds the record for most countywide positive COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States. Although residents have been frustrated by the restrictions of stay-at-home orders, LA County Public Health reminds the community that the goal is to slow the spread of the virus and buy enough time before a vaccine is made widely available.

The surge in COVID-19 cases began when California began reopening parts of the state in late May. Throughout the summer, California and LA County began to see a disturbing upward trend of COVID-19 cases as businesses like nail salons, gyms, outdoor restaurants, bars and other public entities reopened.

The county has also found a number of businesses that were not mandating face masks and social distancing spacing in their shops, forcing the county to begin investigating non-compliant business owners.

Amid major city measures like issuing fines to people not wearing masks in public, on Wednesday, Aug. 5 LA City Councilmember David Ryu officially proposed imposing more penalties for noncompliance such as water and power shutoffs, permit prohibitions or cancellation of certificates of occupancy.

“Despite a pandemic that has killed thousands in Los Angeles, some homeowners are choosing to put everyone at risk by renting out their homes to massive house parties,” Ryu said in a statement. “This is irresponsible bordering on deadly — and it must be stopped. Whether it takes shutting off utilities or revoking their permits, we must do what it takes to shut these party houses down.”

As of Wednesday, nearly 196,000 people in LA County have tested positive for the virus and 4,760 people have died from complications related to COVID-19.

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