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L.A. County warns against spring break travel, as potential reopenings near

Man at LAX
A man walks through the largely deserted Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 31.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

With Los Angeles County closer to a wider economic reopening than it’s been in months, residents are being urged to double down on the steps necessary to thwart coronavirus transmission — including avoiding travel over the coming spring break season.

Though the nation’s most populous county continues to see a steady, if slowing, slide in terms of newly reported coronavirus cases, that progress is precarious and could easily be reversed, officials say.

“With increased case numbers in other states, and more circulating variants of concern, spring travel can lead to another surge that, frankly, would be almost impossible to tolerate,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Travel increases the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19.”

Officials pointed out that the county’s travel advisory is still effective, meaning anyone who arrives from out of state must self-quarantine for 10 days.

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That advisory also recommends county residents “stay within 120 miles from their place of residence” and avoid travel unless it’s necessary for work, study or medical care.

“Please postpone travel and continue doing your part to slow the spread so that our recovery journey isn’t sidelined,” Ferrer said.

L.A. County’s recent warning is based not just on caution but on experience. Travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, health officials say, poured gasoline on California’s fall surge — creating a massive viral inferno that rampaged across the state for weeks.

Coronavirus cases have been falling for weeks in the county, but in recent days those numbers have started to flatten.

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By Sunday, L.A. County was reporting an average of about 1,600 new daily coronavirus cases a day over the last week, a week-over-week decrease of less than 2%. The previous week-over-week decrease was 18%, and the week-over-week drop before that was 30%.

So far, the county has yet to see a notable uptick in infections stemming from the Super Bowl or February holidays such as the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day or Presidents Day weekend.

The latest maps and charts on the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County, including cases, deaths, closures and restrictions.

Optimism in the time of COVID is often couched in caution.

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It was almost a year ago to the day that L.A. County first declared a COVID-19 emergency, and though the region has learned much since then, those lessons have come at an almost incalculable cost.

More than 22,000 Angelenos have died of COVID-19, and nearly 100 are succumbing to the disease every day.

At a public event Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that even though some states have decided to relax their mask rules, Californians should double down on face coverings.

That, officials stress, is why it remains important for residents to keep their guard up — and remain committed to behaviors and measures that can help keep the coronavirus at bay, such as wearing masks in public, avoiding crowds and washing hands regularly.

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“We have a clear path forward, Los Angeles, out of this hell that we’ve been living in for the last year,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday. “But looking ahead, it won’t be automatic. It won’t be easy. And, yes, we will still face headwinds.”

The efforts target residents who live in low-income areas where homes are crowded — areas that have suffered high rates of disease and death from COVID-19.


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