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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Health officials worry about Super Bowl surge

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

Across Los Angeles County the overwhelming surge of the coronavirus that paralyzed hospitals and sent residents back into a stay-at-home order appears to be in full retreat—however, health officials warn it’s too early to begin celebrating.

In fact, Los Angeles County Department of Pubic Health has sent out numerous warnings this week cautioning against celebrating at “super spreader” Super Bowl parties this Sunday. Even with the case numbers and positivity rate declining, the county is still in the most restrictive tier in the state’s recovery plan, meaning the virus is widespread here. Therefore, it is still not safe to gather in other people’s homes, particularly unmasked and for long periods of time.

The danger, according to L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, is another super spreader event, like the one that happened on Thanksgiving  could turn the county’s recent progress around. This could also lead to another stay-at-home order.

“In the weeks following every holiday, and many major sporting events, the county experienced increases in cases, and then hospitalizations and deaths. Public Health recommends residents enjoy the Super Bowl and cheer for their team from their home with those they live with,” health officials said in a statement.

For now, the news remains rather good with all the major outbreak indicators falling substantially from the peak just over one month ago. Most importantly, the daily hospitalizations rate is down about 40 percent with 5,165 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19, and the three-day average hospitalizations rate at 5,328. Also, the county reported 5,189 new virus cases on Wednesday compared with well over 15,000 just a few weeks ago.

“These promising decreases are solely attributed to your hard work,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said during a news conference on Monday. “For almost two months you limited your actions, you turned down invitations, you stayed at home as much as possible. With the limited health officer order now in place, there is an opportunity to return to some of the activities that you missed.”

The good news is tempered considerably as the county reached the grim total of 17,000 deaths over the weekend and reports that number had grown to 17,308 by Wednesday. This milestone is even more tragic when one considers that on December 30, the county passed the 10,000 deaths mark—and on Wednesday another 256 people lost their struggle with COVID-19.

Along with the majority of the state, Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive purple tier in the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. To move into the red tier and have additional opportunities for re-openings, L.A. County’s daily case rate must be at or below seven new cases per 100,000 people and the county’s test positivity rate must be at or below eight percent. However, as of January 23, L.A. County’s adjusted case rate is 38.7 new cases per 100,000 people and the test positivity rate is 11.3 percent.

“It is clear we have quite a way to go before transmission in our county is considered no longer widespread; hopefully, by following all the rules, we can continue to make good progress slowing the spread and moving into a less restrictive tier,” the county’s statement read.

The health department is now reporting 2,108 cumulative cases in Claremont and 90 new infections in the last week. Tragically, another four Claremont residents have died, bringing the city’s total to 47.

Now that the city’s restaurants are offering outdoor dining again, people should only go out to eat with members of their immediate family and wear a mask when a server comes to the table. County public health inspectors will also be on the lookout for businesses that are not adhering to the rules designed to keep both employees and the public safe.

“The success of the county’s recovery depends on businesses following the rules. Businesses that are not adhering to safety protocols to protect workers and customers increase the risk for COVID-19 spread. A list of non-compliant businesses that received citations can be found online,” health officials said. “Unfortunately, not adhering to health officer orders will likely cause another increase in cases that we can’t tolerate.”

As the county moves through its vaccination program, officials are constantly aligning strategies to reach the most vulnerable.

The COVID-19 vaccine remains in very limited supply and the county is prioritizing residents 65 and older to get the inoculation through its five large capacity vaccine centers and through private partners.

Given the limited weekly shipments, and supply on hand, the health department must  balance priorities. But officials are working with the state to further a plan for “vaccinating additional workers in the prioritized groups,” according to a news release sent out Wednesday by the L.A. County Health Department.

“While the state is updating its distribution plans, the county must also look at how best to protect the most vulnerable with the goal of reducing mortality. We ask for patience until we receive all the vaccine we need to get to everyone who wants to get vaccinated,” the statement read.

If you currently qualify, visit public health’s website at: VaccinateLACounty.com which connects residents eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations to appointment registration links and information. For those without access to a computer or the internet or with disabilities, a call center is open to help schedule appointments at 833-540-0473, daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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