LOS ANGELES – The fall coronavirus surge in California entered a critical moment on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, with the state shattering a daily record for new cases.
The state recorded 20,654 cases Monday, significantly surpassing a previous record of 13,400. Hard-hit Los Angeles County recorded more than 6,000 new cases, which was also a daily record.
Officials are hoping restrictions imposed over the last week will slow the unprecedented spread of the virus and that residents will avoid big Thanksgiving gatherings that experts fear could spread the virus further.
Last week, state officials announced a new order prohibiting most nonessential activity outside the home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in counties that are in the strictest “purple” tier of the state’s color-coded reopening road map. Roughly 94% of Californians – including all those in the southern third of the state – are subject to that order, which lasts until Dec. 21, though it could be extended.
“We’re hoping that’s all we’ll need, but we’ll see,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. “We’re open-minded to the dynamics of the conditions that are changing in real time.”
California is now on pace to see its cumulative death toll double just before spring, from the more than 18,700 deaths currently tallied to more than 37,000 by March 1, according to model forecasts by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
A Los Angeles Times analysis Monday found that the average daily number of coronavirus cases over a five-day period has more than tripled since Election Day. COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled since mid-October, from 730 on Oct. 18 to 1,473 on Sunday.
The specter of another coronavirus shutdown is looming over L.A. County, which has been particularly hard hit by the surge.
When such a new stay-at-home order will be handed down, or what precise form it will take, is unclear. But L.A. County director of public health Barbara Ferrer said, “For sure, we’re not going back to all of the restrictions that were in place in the original Safer at Home order.” The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the order at its Tuesday meeting.
Ferrer described a proposed new stay-at-home order that would be less encompassing than the one issued in March. It’s unnecessary to be as broad, she suggested, because officials know more about the virus and testing capacity has improved. The specifics will be discussed with the supervisors, a five-person elected board that represents the 10.1 million residents of Los Angeles County.
Officials are set to suspend outdoor dining starting at 10 p.m. Wednesday – delivering yet another blow to the region’s already battered restaurant industry. Takeout and delivery of restaurant food can continue.
That move sparked pushback from restaurants, which have been reeling from the pandemic. Outdoor dining had offered a lifeline, and many owners and workers felt they were doing everything they could to keep their establishment safe.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger also criticized the suspension of outdoor dining, saying it “will further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year.”
As COVID-19 spikes, hospitalizations are rising – and more L.A. County residents are dying at an increasing pace. A Times analysis found that the deaths of an average of 26 people were reported every day over a seven-day period, more than double the number experienced on election day.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti expressed support for tougher stay-at-home orders.
“I’m not here to dance around this issue or to take, you know, half measures and watch people die,” Garcetti said. “And what are we going to do? Wait till it gets to 10, 15, 20,000 cases (a day) and then suddenly say, ‘We’re shutting down,’ and now we’re shut down for two or three months?”