Halloween Scares Health Officials As Coronavirus Spikes In LA

Paige Austin
·3 min read

LOS ANGELES, CA — One thing Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials had hoped to avoid was a spike in the coronavirus outbreak heading into the holiday season when families and friends will be tempted to gather indoors.

But new cases are climbing disturbingly in Los Angeles, and Halloween parties and hordes of trick-or-treaters could make it worse, health officials warned Friday. The upward trend is likely to ensure campuses stay shuttered and businesses shut down.

"As we head into the holiday weekend, please remember there is simply too much COVID-19 going around for us to let our guard down," public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. "The fewer people you and your household have in-person contact with, the lower your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.

"For the county to continue our recovery journey, many more of us need to get back to doing what we know works, and we need to stop engaging in activities that makes it easy for transmission of the virus," she said.

The county Department of Public Health reported another 1,296 cases of COVID-19 on Friday. Health officials said earlier that the county had been averaging about 940 new cases a day at the beginning of October, but is now averaging about 1,200 a day. On Thursday, the county reported 1,745 new cases, the highest number since late August not associated with a backlog in test results.

The new cases reported by the county on Friday, along with 50 additional cases announced by health officials in Long Beach, increased the countywide cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 306,377.

The county also announced another 26 coronavirus-related deaths, while Long Beach added one more, lifting the countywide death toll to 7,057. There were 743 people hospitalized with the virus as of Friday, down from 750 on Thursday and 755 on Wednesday.

Los Angeles County remains entrenched in the most restrictive "purple" tier of the state's coronavirus economic-reopening matrix. Until the daily case numbers drop to a steady average of about 700 per day, the county will be unable to substantially lift business restrictions or allow school campuses to reopen.

The county had actually reached that benchmark in September, raising hope it might advance to the less-restrictive "red" tier, but it was unable to maintain those case levels.

Health officials have said younger residents represent the bulk of new cases being reported, and they pointed directly to public gatherings -- particularly groups of people coming together to watch sporting events either in private settings or at outdoor restaurants -- as responsible for the case increases. Beyond just the recent Lakers and Dodgers championship playoff runs, health officials pointed to the start of football season as another factor attracting larger crowds at eateries with television sets.

All bars remain closed in the county, and no spectators are permitted at sporting events, such as Rams and Chargers games at SoFi Stadium.

The Department of Public Health urged residents not to gather on Saturday for Halloween.

"Safer options include participating in a virtual party, attending a drive-in event, driving around your neighborhood to see decorated houses, holding a scavenger hunt for treats at home or attending a special Halloween drive-in movie," according to the agency. "Carnivals, parties, festivals, live entertainment and haunted house attractions are not safe this Halloween and are not permitted under the Health Officer Order."

The county several weeks ago released Halloween guidelines that outright banned trick-or-treating, but the restriction was met with immediate public outcry. Health officials quickly revised the guidelines, lifting the ban but still strongly recommending against the practice, saying it is hard to maintain infection-control measures while walking door-to-door and collecting candy from strangers.

The city of Beverly Hills, however, has instituted a ban on house-to- house trick-or-treating, and on car-to-car "trunk-or-treating."

City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on the Los Angeles Patch