Dangers posed by the coronavirus continue to loom over Los Angeles, which officials warn is inching closer to the highest threat level and an imminent shutdown of the city.
“While the city of Los Angeles’s COVID-19 threat level remains at orange, we are on the border of going to red,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday night. “It is up to all of us that we don’t.”
The county is not facing a ventilator or intensive care bed shortage, but hospitalizations are rising. And while the mortality rate has not skyrocketed, as younger people now account for the majority of new cases, the number of infections continues to rise. Garcetti says the city is not in red-level territory yet, but that could change if the situation worsens.
“Red is when everything shuts down again to our strictest level. I do want to warn people that we’re close to that,” he said.
The effects of the virus are worse in Los Angeles County and throughout the state than in the pandemic’s history. And while some parts of the country, like former hot spot New York, have recently reported a decline in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, California has seen a continued surge.
There have never been more infections or reported daily positive cases in Los Angeles as there are currently — a reality that continues to affect the rate of hospitalizations.
“We’ve never had as many people in the hospital as there are tonight in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that while the mortality rate is currently stable, the rise in hospitalizations will likely result in increased deaths.
The spike in cases can be attributed to a variety of reasons, many linked to the state’s reopening strategy. Officials have reported that outbreaks at indoor work settings and factories as well as private gatherings are major areas tied to the surge.
Garcetti said the county is aware of certain clusters, such as those at garment manufacturer Los Angeles Apparel, where 300 employees contracted the virus and four have died. They mayor also said there are anecdotal reports of other outbreaks, such as one at an indoor dinner party for 30 people after a wedding that left half the diners infected.
More than 136,000 coronavirus infections and 3,824 related deaths have been recorded in Los Angeles County, the bulk of the state’s totals.
“If we were an independent country, Los Angeles County would have the 20th most cases in the world. Put differently, we have more cases in Los Angeles County than all of Canada,” Garcetti said. According to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker, Canada has recorded more than 110,00 cases of the virus.
In the absence of a vaccine or medical therapies, officials have previously stressed the need for testing as the only true barometer of the virus’ spread, and one of the few weapons available to fight against the illness. But amid a nationwide shortage in supply and high demands in Los Angeles County that have outpaced the availability of materials, officials are now shifting their message.
Over the past week, officials have increasingly emphasized that because a test result accounts for only a single day, it not foolproof in determining whether a person is truly negative for the virus. And in the time it takes for a person to receive a test result, the reality could change. This has always been true, but the message previously was one of widespread encouragement for the necessity of testing.
The shift in language comes as California reverses course on reopenings.
Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated a statewide order Monday for all counties to cease indoor operations at various businesses, including restaurants, wineries and zoos. More than 30 other counties, including Los Angeles, that had previously received that mandate were instructed to impose even stricter rules by shuttering indoor operations at hair salons and barbershops, nail salons and personal care facilities, fitness center, indoor malls and places of worship.
“The virus is not going away anytime soon,” Newsom said.