Authorities are warning the public that the current coronavirus surge in Los Angeles County could be devastating. Recent, record-shattering reports appear to indicate what Dr. Barbara Ferrer describes as “alarming increases in cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations.”
Of particular concern is a predicted spike in hospitalizations which, as the Los Angeles Times notes, has not been an immediate worry since early in the pandemic, when the county’s quick action to put stay-at-home orders in place did help to “flatten the curve” of health care demand. Now L.A. is projecting it could exceed hospital bed capacity in two to three weeks, and could run out of ICU beds in July.
Because it can be three to four weeks from initial exposure to the virus to the point where a patient is hospitalized, even immediate, dramatic action to reinstate stricter quarantine orders may not entirely avoid the predicted overwhelming of hospitals. Local hospitals are bracing for the wave of patients to arrive, taking steps including reducing elective surgeries and preparing for expanded capacity.
The transmission rate of the virus is now believed to have risen to 1.26, meaning that, on average, one infected person is infecting more than one other person. That number had dropped below 1.0 as recently as early May.
“We are seeing an increase in transmission. We’re seeing more people get sick and go into the hospital. This is very much a change in the trajectory of the epidemic over the past several days. It’s a change for the worse and a cause for concern,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s director of health services, told the Times.
It is believed that the increase in transmission rates began around Memorial Day, and maps very closely to commercial reopenings and the relaxation of other orders.
“I’ve had an explosion of new outbreaks in workplaces. One that got shut down this past weekend, it had over 115 infections,” Dr. Ferrer stated.
As patrons began to return to restaurants and bars, county health inspectors found the vast majority were not in full compliance with pandemic protocols. Over the weekend, the state ordered the closure of bars in the county, but allowed restaurant service to continue. A number of restaurants have voluntarily closed, at least temporarily, due to employees becoming ill, or concerns over customers who are unwilling to respect mask-wearing, distancing, and other guidelines while at the establishments.
Ferrer also cited large family and social gatherings as a point of concern. However, data does not appear to directly link recent anti-police brutality protests to L.A.’s local coronavirus surge.