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COVID-19 is ‘greatest threat to life in Los Angeles that we have ever faced,’ Garcetti says

Nurses in the ICU at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willowbrook
ICU nurse Naomi Okonofua at work at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital in Willowbrook in May.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Another alarming spike in COVID-19 cases Friday in Los Angeles County prompted officials to sound new alarms about the need to stay home to slow the spread.

“This is the greatest threat to life in Los Angeles that we have ever faced,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday evening. “The simple truth is that we know that COVID-19 rapidly spreads and rapidly spreads as a result of our own behavior, but we also know that we can slow that spread by wearing a mask, by washing our hands.”

At a news conference, he said the total death toll in L.A. County, including COVID-19 cases, could top 11,000 this year. More than 7,800 deaths so far this year have been attributed to COVID in the county, according to The Times tracker.

County officials urged people to avoid holiday travel and follow safety rules.

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“The best thing to do right now and in the upcoming holiday season is to stay at home and not travel,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “Encourage your family and friends to stay connected virtually and delay meeting in person until we are at a better place in the pandemic. Collectively, we have a chance to slow the spread and save lives.”

The county has broken single-day new coronavirus case records on three of the last four days. On Friday, new 8,562 cases were reported, according to The Times’ tally, breaking the record set Thursday, when 7,713 were reported.

There were also 56 deaths recorded in L.A. County, a single-day tally not seen since Aug. 19.

The county also broke its record for COVID-19 hospitalizations for the fifth consecutive day Friday, with 2,769 people in hospitals. Of those, nearly a quarter are in intensive care, where numbers have tripled in the last six weeks.

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L.A. County imposed a modified stay-at-home order last week. But it was becoming increasingly clear that the Southern California region could face additional restrictions under newly decreed state rules as early as Sunday.

On Friday night, the California Department of Public Health released new numbers showing that the Southern California region, as well as the San Joaquin Valley region, now face a critical shortage of ICU beds, with each area having less than 15% of its capacity available.

That is the threshold that would, within 24 hours, trigger a regional stay-at-home order, which would shut outdoor restaurant dining, hair salons, nail salons, playgrounds, cardrooms, museums, zoos, aquariums and wineries and restrict retail capacity to 20%.

If ICU capacity remains below 15% Saturday, the order would be put into effect as early as Sunday.

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The L.A. County stay-at-home order has faced a backlash from business owners, who say the suspension of outdoor dining is excessive and unfair, and some parents who question why outdoor playgrounds are closed while indoor malls remain open.


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