L.A. County reports 1,326 coronavirus cases and 15 deaths, urges people to avoid Halloween gatherings

Alex Wigglesworth
·3 min read
ARCADIA, CA - OCTOBER 07, 2020 - A sign tells customers to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as shoppers return to indoor shopping at the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall in Arcadia on October 7, 2020. This is the first day customers were allowed to return to indoor shopping after Los Angeles County eased restrictions and have reopened the malls and the individual stores. Such stores have been closed for weeks, but reopened Wednesday at 25% capacity. Westfield Santa Anita has placed Covid-related signage with one-way traffic, 6 feet distancing when waiting to get into individual stores, hand sanitizing stations and mask are required before entering the mall. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Customers are reminded they must wear masks at the Westfield Santa Anita shopping mall in Arcadia. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials on Saturday issued a renewed plea for people to celebrate Halloween safely as the region continues to see an uptick in new coronavirus cases.

The county reported 1,326 new cases of the virus and 15 related deaths, bringing its total to 307,700 cases and 7,071 deaths.

“Decisions we each make tonight could haunt us and the county for many weeks,” Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said in a statement. “It’s not just about who might get infected on Halloween as a result of an ill-advised party, but also about the people that will come in contact with that person in the days to follow.”

Health officials are recommending that people refrain from trick-or-treating because of the risk of exposure posed by communal food handling, crowding and mixing with others from different households.

Carnivals, parties, festivals, live entertainment and haunted houses are banned by health orders.

Instead, people are advised to have virtual parties, attend drive-in events, walk or drive around their neighborhoods to look at decorations or hold at-home scavenger hunts. Those who do gather with others should only do so outdoors while wearing face coverings and keeping six feet apart, and should limit attendance to two other households, officials said.

The warnings come amid an increase in L.A. County’s daily number of new coronavirus cases — from about 940 at the beginning of October to nearly 1,200 as of last week, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

There were 10,987 reported cases in the seven-day period that ended Thursday, a 39% increase from the previous week.

The county’s adjusted rate of cases per 100,000 residents inched up to 8 this week, from 7.6 the week before.

Due to the rising number, the county remains in the strictest, purple, tier of the state’s four-phase reopening plan, which means that many nonessential businesses remain closed.

“The stakes are high since our case numbers have already been steadily increasing for the past 2 weeks; we can’t really afford to repeat what we went through after the July 4th holiday when we saw surges in cases followed by alarming increases in hospitalizations and deaths,” Ferrer said.

There were 783 confirmed coronavirus patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, with the most recent three-day average number of hospitalizations reported by the county representing a slight increase of 3%. Deaths and hospitalizations are considered lagging indicators of the pandemic because they often rise several weeks after an increase in cases.

Orange County has also seen its daily case rate increase — to 5.1 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 4.6 the week before. The county reported 164 new cases of the virus and eight deaths Saturday, bringing its total to 59,882 cases and 1,483 deaths.

The rising case numbers mirror a trend that's playing out elsewhere in the state. Throughout California, more than 30,200 coronavirus cases were reported for the seven-day period that ended Thursday, a 19% jump from the previous week.

Even San Francisco, which is the only urban county in the state’s least restrictive reopening tier, announced Friday that it was pausing further reopening plans due to an increase in hospitalizations and positive test rates.

New coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have also been on the rise across the United States and elsewhere around the globe, with England announcing a new monthlong stay-at-home order on Saturday.

More than 230,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. Over the past two weeks, more than 78,700 new virus cases have been reported each day on average, up from about 55,100 in mid-October, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Times staff writers Luke Money, Rong-Gong Lin II, Maura Dolan and Iris Lee contributed to this report. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.