LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County’s public health director warned again Wednesday that large gatherings are forbidden under coronavirus-prevention orders following two highly publicized parties, one of which ended in a fatal shooting.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said infection rates among residents aged 30 to 49 nearly tripled between June and late July, and rates among those 18-29 quadrupled.
“These two age groups continue to drive new infections here in the county,” Ferrer said.
According to Ferrer, people in the 18-29 age group now represent twice the percentage of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the county than they did in April, matching the rate of people aged 80 and over.
People aged 30-49 now represent 25% of all hospitalized virus patients.
She said the county has reported hundreds of deaths among younger age groups, but noted that younger people who become infected but don’t become severely ill can still pass the virus to older residents who might require hospitalization or even die.
Ferrer acknowledged recent widely publicized parties that made headlines, calling such massive collections of people a “bad idea” and a breeding ground for the virus among younger residents who can in turn infect older and more vulnerable residents.
Last week, dozens of people attended a private party at a bar in Hollywood. On Tuesday, one woman was killed and two other people were wounded after shots were fired at a large party at a mansion in the upscale hillside neighborhood of Beverly Crest.
“Gatherings are simply not allowed at this point under the health officer order,” Ferrer said. “Because they create a lot of risk for transmission at activities that really are not essential. These parties and gatherings with people not in your household hurt all of us as we try to reduce our case rates so we can get our children back to school and get other adults back to their jobs. We ask that everyone make good decisions. Don’t host large parties and don’t attend a party if you’re invited. It isn’t worth the risk you run and it certainly isn’t worth the risk you’re creating for our collective recovery journey.”
“I do think an equally important question to ask is why so many people are willing to put our entire community at risk during this unprecedented pandemic,” she said.
Ferrer also noted a recent outbreak along USC’s fraternity row that has so far resulted in 45 positive cases of the virus.
She said a separate smaller outbreak occurred among another group of USC students who were studying and socializing together. She also said at least eight football players at UCLA have tested positive.
Draft guidelines were posted this week for the eventual reopening of colleges and universities, although no such institutions will be able to open for now due to the elevated number of cases.
Meanwhile Wednesday, the county reported another coronavirus-related 68 deaths increasing the countywide death toll to 4,825. Two of those deaths were reported Tuesday by health officials in Long Beach and Pasadena.
Ferrer also reported 2,347 additional cases of the virus bringing the county’s total to 197,912. She said the number is likely low due to continued technological problems at the state’s electronic laboratory reporting system that has resulted in an undercount stretching back at least two weeks.
Ferrer warned that once the backlog clears, the county will likely see a sharp rise in the overall number of cases.
The state reporting backlog, however, does not affect the daily reporting of deaths or hospitalizations, and both of those numbers have been trending downward, leading Ferrer to again say she is “cautiously optimistic” about the success of local efforts to control the spread of the virus.
“We must learn from our recent past, however, and we have to continue our vigilance in the face of this still new and dangerous virus,” Ferrer said. “You’ll recall that just a few months ago we were in a much better place than we are now. And unfortunately, many of us thought that meant we could return to life as it was before COVID-19 and we as a community returned to a place where COVID-19 was spreading at even higher rates than it had been in the early days of the pandemic.
“The main difference this time was that the people driving the infection rate were younger than they had initially been,” she said.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)