The highest weekend total of deaths was previously reported April 18-19, when 105 deaths were announced. Officials also reported 3,000 new cases on Saturday and Sunday.
When officials announced that the county would more fully reopen businesses and outdoor venues, such as beaches and parks — even as the case count and death rate continued to climb — they reiterated a message repeated countless times in weeks prior: The virus has not changed; the only change has been in people’s behavior and the commitment to practice social distancing.
Now, two weeks after Memorial Day weekend saw crowds gather at newly reopened beaches and just over a week since restaurants and most businesses were given the green light to resume operations, officials have reported that the transmission rate of the virus appears to have increased, an expected reality as activity rose.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services for L.A. County, said Friday the “effective transmission rate” had now risen above 1 — meaning each infected person goes on to infect more than one other individual — and was gaining ground.
“While we don’t know precisely yet how reopening and the recovery activities will affect transmission of COVID-19,” Ghaly said, the transmission rate “does appear now to be greater than 1, and slightly uptrending.”
On Monday, officials announced an additional 10 deaths and 823 new cases of the virus, bringing the total number of infections to 64,644. The numbers are typically lower on Mondays because of fewer reports over the weekend.
The latest rise in cases cannot be linked to the thousands who have taken to the streets in the past week to protest over police killing of George Floyd and racial inequality. The incubation period for the virus is can take up to 14 days, so numbers currently reported reflect actions from weeks prior, officials have said.
That’s not to say that activities at the protests won’t affect the case count in the coming days.
Officials have continued to commend peaceful protesters for exercising their 1st Amendment rights while also reminding them to remain cautious.
Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer on Monday compared the risk of exposure at protests to the risk posed by gathering in other public settings, including indoor malls and restaurants. In such instances, contact tracers would not be in touch with individuals who might have been exposed to the virus.
“Nobody knows you were there,” she said. “No one will call you.”
Ferrer encouraged protesters Monday to be proactive and to get tested for the virus, while reminding demonstrators that it could take up to two weeks for the virus to show up in a person’s system.
“A negative test result doesn’t mean you can’t become infected during the 14-day incubation period.”
Those who came into contact with someone who was not wearing a face mask or had a known case of exposure should self-quarantine during the incubation period.
“The risk is still there. Even though it may not be a huge risk, it’s enough of a risk for everyone to take these universal precautions,” she said.
Although many have worn face coverings while protesting, it is nearly impossible to maintain a six-foot separation amid a crowd. Various state officials, as well as health experts with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are warning protesters to get tested amid concerns that the demonstrations might lead to another surge in cases.
“Those individuals that have partaken in these peaceful protests or have been out protesting, and particularly if they’re in metropolitan areas that really haven’t controlled the outbreak … we really want those individuals to highly consider being evaluated and get tested,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told a congressional hearing last week.
Citing concerns over violence that erupted during early protests, L.A. County officials closed or modified hours at several testing sites last week. The decision concerned experts, as tests and social distancing practices remain the only real weapons against the virus in the absence of a vaccine and medical therapies.
The virus has remained on the minds of protesters, who have ended months of self-isolation to voice their outrage over the death of Floyd last month at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. In addition to the free food and water that volunteers have passed out at protests, there has been an ample supply of hand sanitizer distributed.
A group of about 50 nurses and healthcare workers who have been battling the coronavirus on the front lines at Santa Monica Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, USC Keck Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente joined Saturday’s protest in front of Los Angeles City Hall with bags full of sanitizer.
“Racism is a public health crisis,” said Delilah Garcia, 24, about why she was attending the protests despite the risk of COVID-19, which has disproportionately affected black communities. “Enough is enough.”
Meanwhile, as thousands continue to protest against police brutality and inequality, protests over coronavirus restrictions continue. A crowd gathered Monday to protest for the reopening of the nail industry at the Asian Garden Mall in Westminster. The protest came after industry association Nailing it for America released a statement Saturday calling Gov. Gavin Newsom’s previous comments about nail salons “nothing short of a fiasco” for business owners.
In May, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the coronavirus in California originated from a nail salon. Activists said that wasn’t true after meeting with the governor last week. Nail salons are one of the businesses that are currently not allowed to reopen under the state orders.