Yesterday, the LA County Department of Public Health announced that COVID-19 cases are continuing to surge, with 2,301 new cases reported and 1,126 people currently hospitalized. The numbers represent “more than a 40% increase from two weeks ago when daily hospitalizations were 798” and new cases were about 1,100 per day.
These increases have also prompted a flurry of related news from the city and county in the last couple of days.
First, on Monday night, in a video address, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti noted the urgency of the situation and reiterated how important it is for everyone to do what they can to help stop the surge. Noting that there’s “an American dying of COVID-19 every minutes,” Garcetti announced new travel advisories, asking people to skip all non-essential and holiday travel this year. “If you don’t have essential travel, don’t travel,” he said. “And if you don’t have to take a trip as an essential worker or because of a family emergency, don’t travel.” In addition, Garcetti said, anyone who does travel should self-quarantine for 14 days after their return.
At the same time, however, the Mayor also sounded an optimistic note, saying we all have a part to play in the ultimate goal. “We want to get to a vaccine without having to shut down the economy more,” he said. And “now is the time that I want you to feel the power that you have…to turn this surge around.”
To help with this, Garcetti urged even greater mask vigilance, suggesting people wear masks at all times outdoors.
And he said the city will do its part by both follwing and ramping up enforcement of all LA County health rules. Local officials, he said, will “issue citations…and revoke permits for businesses who violate requirements and put all of us at risk.”
Garcetti’s remarks about increased enforcement of County guidelines gained some additional heft yesterday, as LA County announced new directives for businesses, which will take effect on Friday, November 20:
- For non-essential businesses permitted to operate indoors—including retail stores, offices, personal care services—occupancy will be limited to 25% maximum capacity.
- The number of patrons at outdoor restaurants, breweries and wineries will be limited to 50% max outdoor capacity.
- The number of customers at cardrooms, outdoor mini-golf, go-karts and batting cages will be limited to 50% maximum outdoor capacity.
- Services at personal care establishments may only be provided by appointment to customers wearing face coverings by staff wearing face coverings.
- Services that require either the customer or the staff to remove their face covering, such as facials and shaves, are not permitted.
- Food and drinks cannot be served at these establishments to customers.
- Restaurants, breweries, wineries, bars, and all other non-essential retail establishments must close from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
- Outdoor gatherings remain the only gatherings permitted, and they must only include 15 people maximum who are members of no more than 3 households.
If case counts continue to rise under these rules, and the five-day average of cases hits 4,000 or more, or hospitalizations rise to more than 1,750 per day, the County said it will also start prohibiting both indoor AND outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars, which will once again be allowed to offer only pickup and delivery service.
And if that doesn’t work, and the five-day case average in LA County hits 4,500, or hospitalizations exceed 2,000 per day, things will lock down even further, with a three-week “Safer at Home” order that would “only allow essential workers and those securing essential services to leave their homes.” There would also be a general 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew in effect, with only essential workers exempt.
“Los Angeles County is at a critical moment to save lives and curb the spread of COVID-19,” said LA County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer in the statement. “I urge our residents, businesses and community leaders to heed this warning and follow these heightened safeguards so that additional restrictions do not need to be imposed…Lives and livelihoods are at stake and our entire community will be affected by our collective action if we do the right thing.”
Among those squeezed hardest by the new rules will be local restaurants, which have already seen months of losses from the pandemic.
Nora Houndalas, who runs Larchmont’s Le Petit Greek, told the Buzz this morning that, “as with all things, health and safety is first and foremost.” But at the same time, she said, “being restricted to 50% capacity is a big blow, especially since the elections and colder temps have slowed down business this month for all restaurants even with outdoor heating.”
Houndalas noted that “Restaurants have razor thin profit margins in the best of times (4-8%), and small and large restaurants are starting to question if it is worth it to incur such huge debt and such great losses to make it through this crisis.”
Le Petit Greek closes at 8:30 p.m., so the new closing times won’t affect its operations too much right away, but Houndalas said she is worried about what will happen when rainier weather begins this winter and outdoor dining isn’t as attractive to customers.
“We hope customers will increase their take out orders and purchase gift cards for the holidays ether physical or e-gift. We were able to add 2 lunches last week (Friday & Saturday) and will continue to do so as it allowed us to bring back a few employees.”
Other Recent Updates
In addition to the stricter mask and business guidelines, both city and county officials have also been warning about another risky behavior: people getting tested several days before attending an event or gathering and then assuming a negative test makes attending the event safe. But this is not the case, officials said — a negative test on a Thursday, for example, does not mean you are still negative on Saturday, and that still makes event attendance risky. As the county posted on its Facebook page yesterday: “Testing does not prevent COVID-19. Wear the face covering, avoid indoor gatherings, and stay 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.”
Also, in a press conference today, LA County Officials released new information about the surge and how the trend – if not stemmed quickly – could affect hospitalizations and intensive care availability.
For example, this graph shows (at the vertical blue dashed line) that the current demand for hospital beds (white curve) is still below the number of available hospital beds in LA County (dashed red curve)…but if the surge continues unchecked (see the red triangular area), we could far exceed capacity of hospital beds by December 2.
And this chart shows a similar trend for ICU beds:
So it’s easy to understand why Garcetti, in a social media post yesterday, is now urging everyone to:
- Stay home as much as possible
- If you go out, assume everyone you encounter outside is infectious. Keep your distance. Wear a mask.
- Avoid indoor gatherings.
And why the County is now recommending the following guidelines for our upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations.
(The Buzz has some suggestions for a safe and happy holiday, too, at https://larchmontbuzz.com/featured-stories-larchmont-village/a-new-thanksgiving/ )