By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — More than 70 citations have been issued over the last month to businesses and organizations — including churches and gyms — for violating L.A. County’s COVID-19 health orders, officials announced Thursday.

However, health officer Dr. Muntu Davis said that no closures have been ordered yet. Davis warned that failing to adhere to these guidelines, especially moving forward with indoor operations, can make the virus spread much worse.

“Not just for us in terms of public health but others who are watching and monitoring the spread of this virus and trying to do everything we can to control it, it is concerning when we don’t have compliance with the measures that are needed in order to slow the spread of this within our county,” Davis said in an online media briefing.

“As we go through, we continue to look at all options that might be available to us,” he said. “Of course, I can’t go into a lot of details on each case, but (we) continue to try to build what we need to in terms of getting compliance from everyone. This is really what’s needed at this point. Everybody has to do what they need to do in order to slow it down. And at some point, you know, this may be a thing of the past, but until we get to that point, we really do need everyone’s cooperation and assistance.”

According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, 71 citations were issued between Aug. 29 and Sunday “due to lack of compliance with Health Officer Orders.”

Several businesses were cited multiple times, including a Coast Fitness facility in Hawthorne, which was cited at least four
times; various locations of Crunch Fitness, including those in Cerritos, La Mirada and Lancaster; and Powerhouse Gym in Torrance that was cited at least five times.

Multiple churches were also cited, including Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, which the county took to court and obtained an injunction to bar from holding indoor worship services. The county says the church has been cited three times since the court order was issued on Sept. 10.

Davis did not give specifics on actions that might be taken against repeat violators of the health orders, but he confirmed that “to date, none of them have been issued a closure order.”

The health officer did stress that this is a crucial time for L.A. County, where a post-Labor Day surge in cases could still occur — possibly evidenced by the recent rise in daily cases and the transmission rate.

“We’re watching…if that (transmission rate) is going to continue to head up in that direction that it’s going at the moment, if it’s going to speed up or slow down,” he said. “But it’s always going to be a concern especially as we start to open up more and we have more people out and about, as we’ve seen in the past — in July when we had our spike and a number of things were open as well.

“But again, this goes back to what people do, what businesses do in terms of trying to reduce the transmission,” he said. “Those things can happen, but everybody has to adhere to the precautions that are needed in order to really slow the spread of this virus and allow us to do more than what we’re able to do right now.”

On Thursday, Los Angeles County reported another 39 deaths and 1,165 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 264,414 and the death toll to 6,455.

This comes one day after the county reported a concerning increase in the local COVID-19 transmission rate, which had been steadily declining, dropping below the critical threshold of 1.0. On Wednesday, it rose to 1.02.

Concerns over the post-Labor Day case numbers have kept the county weary of moving forward with additional reopenings — prompting them to order nail salons to stay closed despite the state clearing them to open in any tier of the monitoring system.

County Supervisor Hilda Solis expressed hesitance to do so until more data are collected this week to determine case trends.

“We regularly speak with our public health director, whether its via email or phone conversations,” she said. “We will be having our meeting this coming Tuesday and we’ll be able to discuss some of these items, and they’re very, very — what could I say — concerning, because we know that we’re waiting to see data coming back after the Labor Day weekend, so I am very, very cautious of that.”

Currently, the county meets the criteria to move into the state’s red tier. However, those statistics were gathered before the county saw a four-day spike in daily case numbers last week.

Health chief Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that this spike may keep L.A. County from moving tiers.

“So we’re not sure that we’ll have another week where our adjusted daily case rate is at or below seven new cases per 100,000 residents,” she said. “But we are heartened that L.A. County has met the thresholds that allow us to see our progress and in the future move to tier two.”

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)


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