Officials in Los Angeles County are warning the areas more than ten million residents that simply stepping outside is now deemed risky behavior within the nation’s pandemic epicenter.
“Everyone should keep in mind that community transmission rates are so high that you run the risk of an exposure whenever you leave your home,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer earlier this week. “Assume that this deadly invisible virus is everywhere, looking for a willing host.”
On Wednesday, Ferrer said she was “more troubled than ever before” as the county reported 258 new deaths and hospitalizations surpassed 8,000 patients for the first time. L.A. County has experienced an increase of more than 945% in daily COVID-19 cases since the latest surge began in November. She has been cautioning that the worst is yet to come, anticipating more spikes resulting from Christmas and New Year’s gatherings.
“My concern is rooted in the reality that it will take so much more for us to slow the spread giving the high rate of community spread,” Ferrer said.
“For the small number of people who are either not getting the message or who are actively choosing to disregard it, we ask that you step up and start doing the right thing this month.”
Our actions over the next couple of weeks are a matter of life and death for many. Community transmission rates are high and any activity outside your home is high-risk.
Stay home. If outside, keep your face covering on, wash/sanitize your hands and keep distance from others. pic.twitter.com/TwAahqTKd8
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) January 5, 2021
L.A. Public Health recently began using social media platforms this week to advise the public “any activity outside your home is high-risk.”
Officials also recommended taking a break from shopping, washing or sanitizing hands hourly when around others, and to avoid eating or drinking with anyone outside of one’s household.
Ferrer said the skyrocketing number of coronavirus infections, hospitalizations, and deaths “has upended all aspects of our healthcare delivery system.”
On Monday, the county’s Emergency Service Agency issued memos directing ambulance crews not to transport patients to the hospital if they have a slim chance of survival. The move comes as some sick people have had to wait in ambulance bays outside emergency rooms for up to eight hours at overwhelmed medical facilities. Many local morgues have reached capacity, partly caused by a backup of bodies at funeral homes and mortuaries in the area that have been forced to turn away grieving families due to a lack of space. The county temporarily stores corpses at the coroner’s office, which added extra refrigeration units at the beginning of the pandemic.
Federal officials recently told the state that the 1,000-bed USNS Mercy Hospital ship is under mandatory maintenance and unavailable to return to L.A. to help relieve local hospitals. The ship was deployed to the Port of L.A. in March for nearly seven weeks but only treated 77 patients as an expected wave of patients needing care never materialized.