Claremont among cities where virus is spreading the fastest

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis began Wednesday’s COVID-19 news conference with a rare moment of optimism. She said shipments of the soon-to-be-approved coronavirus vaccine could be coming to the county soon and would then be administered to some of the county’s most vulnerable residents.

“The off ramp to this pandemic is now in plain view,” Ms. Solis said. “We must balance this hope with vigilance. This pandemic is not over, and widespread access to the vaccine may be months away.”

She also announced that in response to guidance from the state, playgrounds in the county would be reopened.

Locally, the news from county health officials was far less optimistic as Claremont ranks fourth in a list of 25 communities where the virus is spreading the fastest.

For the two-week period from November 15 to 28, Claremont had a 345 percent increase in new infections compared with the two-week period from September 15 to 28. However, it is important to note that period in September was a low point for new infections in the county and on September 28 public health reported the lowest number of deaths since the pandemic’s beginning. Claremont had 407 cumulative cases on September 28.

Although the case rate here is still relatively low at 522 cases per 100,000 residents, the sharp increase in new infections in Claremont has only gotten worse since the beginning of December.

As of Wednesday, Claremont had 129 new cases since December 1, and 877 cumulative cases across all areas of the city. The city has reported 172 cases in the last 14 days, which is an indication of how many are currently active. Claremont still has just 15 confirmed deaths.

During Wednesday’s news conference Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer became emotional when she announced the county had reached the grim milestone of 8,000 deaths.

After pausing to compose herself, Ms. Ferrer said, “Their deaths are an incalculable loss to their friends and family as well as our community.”

Los Angeles County ICU available capacity is at 11.8 percent and the Southern California region is at 10.1—a dangerously low number according to Supervisor Solis. This impacts not only patients with COVID-19, but any person going to the hospital requiring critical care.

Supervisor Solis also reported that low income communities of color are at higher risk for contracting the virus and becoming ill, in particular Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islanders, Hispanic and Black residents.

This week a superior court judge sided with Los Angeles county restaurant owners ruling that the county acted arbitrarily and without a risk benefit analysis when it closed outdoor dining at restaurants.

However, in his ruling Superior Court Judge James Chalfant said that the state’s stay-at-home order supersedes the one from the county so in-person dining will remain closed at least until the state’s order expires on December 27.

Some Claremont restaurants continue to remain open in defiance of the order, which has caused certain residents to voice their concerns about the health risk while others have signaled their support for local businesses.

In an email from Public Information Officer Bevin Handel, the city recommends that anyone who is concerned about violations of the health order will need to contact the county.

“The enforcement of the public health order for restaurants with health permits is overseen by the L.A. County Public Health Department with assistance provided by local law enforcement if requested. Violations of the health order may be reported on the county website or by calling in a report,” Ms. Handel wrote. “The Claremont Police Department will assist the L.A. County Health Department’s enforcement of the health order, however, due to limited resources, the CPD will prioritize emergency calls. Additionally, the city’s code enforcement department will respond to calls.”

It is yet unknown how Judge Chalfant’s ruling will affect the county’s ability to respond to reports of health violations.

Citing a 300 percent increase in the average daily cases from November 1 to 30, Ms. Ferrer encouraged everyone to stay home and only go out for essential services or to exercise alone or with members of their immediate family.

“I want to share a simple message for every business and every resident in L.A. County, Please, follow the health officer order for the next three weeks,” she said. “In the last week and a half we have seen an increase from about 4,900 new cases to an average of 8,900 daily cases this first week of December.”

Since November 9, deaths in the county have increased by 258 percent from 12 average deaths per day to 43 this past week. These deaths reflect case counts from a few weeks ago as infections continue to increase. The county can expect to see a similar increase in average daily hospitalizations and ultimately deaths for the foreseeable future, according to Ms. Ferrer.

Also in November, the positivity rate has increased 142 percent and hospitalizations have risen from 791 on November 1 to 3,299 on Wednesday.

On Wednesday the county reported 75 deaths and 9,234 new cases of COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic public health has recorded 475,271 cumulative cases across all areas of L.A. County and 8,075 deaths.

 

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