For three days in a row, Los Angeles County saw a spike of 2,000 new daily cases of COVID-19, marking some of the fastest spreads of the novel coronavirus in the nation.
“While many of us are done with this virus, unfortunately, this virus is not done with us,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Monday.
Nearly 86,000 Angelenos have tested positive for the novel coronavirus so far, according to health officials. That figure includes a spike of 2,571 new confirmed cases Monday and likely points to a higher rate of community transmission, which means health officials are seeing an increase among people who did not know they were infected, showed no symptoms and spread the virus to others.
“What we really saw today and I think what we’ve been seeing all along is what I would call a real increase that’s attributed to community transmission,” said Ferrer during the COVID-19 broadcast update.
The daily death rate has fallen in the last few weeks, but L.A., Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside and Ventura counties in Southern California have seen a steady rise in infections as more sectors of the economy reopen and people return to work and their daily activities for the first time since March.
In total, 3,137 people in L.A. County are dead with 18 new deaths reported on Monday. Hospitalizations have increased along with infections among people between the ages of 18 and 40.
Ferrer said it’s likely that virus spike could be happening in a number of locations including the recent protests against police violence, but it’s difficult to say with certainty.
With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising across the nation’s most populous state, California Governor Gavin Newsom reiterated Monday the state’s more than 400 hospitals have not been overwhelmed and are equipped with adequate medical supplies. While hospitalizations have increased 16% over the last two weeks and the number of people in intensive care has risen by 11%, Newsom said capacity is still “fairly stable.”
“We’re in a position to absorb even greater increases, so I want you to know we’re managing this,” Newsom said during a coronavirus press briefing Monday afternoon.
The governor credited the state’s efforts over the last few months to prepare by stockpiling nearly 200 million masks and acquiring thousands of new hospital beds. But he implored Californians to abide by the mandatory mask rules he ordered last week and encouraged residents to report businesses “thumbing their nose” at the rules, saying the mask order will be enforced if necessary.
“When you go to a restaurant and it’s clear that they’re not practicing what we are preaching, report that,” said Newsom.
Newsom said more than 92,000 tests were administered statewide Sunday — a record — and that 11 counties, including Los Angeles, Riverside, Fresno and Stanislaus were being monitored due to increasing hospitalizations and confirmed cases. On Saturday, the state registered a daily high with 4,515 new confirmed cases.
“Total number of cases are going up in the state of California,” Newsom said, urging residents to continue social distancing and wearing masks. “We are not out of the first wave of this virus.”
Also Monday, Ferrer said she has been the target of death threats for several weeks.
“I like the hundreds of other health officials have in fact received threats and hate mail,” said Ferrer during the broadcast update.
According to Ferrer, someone suggested during a Facebook Live public briefing last month that she should be shot.
“I didn’t immediately see the message, but my husband did, my children did, and so did my colleagues,” said Ferrer, who has become the public face of daily briefings on the death rate and infections from in L.A. County.
“It’s not really about me,” said Ferrer. “It’s about the fact that public health officials, and the team of folks that support us, are doing the best we can to save lives.”
In neighboring Orange County, former county public health director Dr. Nichole Quick was the target of harassment from a vocal contingent of residents who opposed the county’s health order for residents to wear cloth face masks in public. After Quick resigned, the county lifted its face mask health order — a move that was supplanted by Newsom’s statewide mask order.
In San Francisco, city officials announced they’re speeding up their timeline to reopen hair salons, barbers, museums, zoos, tattoo shops, outdoor bars and massage parlors. Some of the businesses were set to reopen in mid-July but will be given the green light to do so starting next week, according to city officials.
The city will reopen those businesses on June 29 as they expect to receive approval from the California Department of Public Health.
“We know a lot of businesses and residents are struggling financially, and this next step will help get more San Franciscans back to work while still balancing safety,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.
The city will need to continue to meet key health indicators on testing, contact tracing, health equipment availability and hospital bed capacity.
On Monday, San Francisco reported 3,058 cases and 47 deaths since the start of the pandemic in March, while the state of California has reported nearly 170,000 cases and over 5,400 deaths.
— By Nathan Solis and Nick Cahill