Health officials and elected office-holders in Los Angeles County fear crowded demonstrations stemming from the death of unarmed and unresisting George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody will lead to a spike in coronavirus cases.
“Peaceful protests are so important, but I ask you all to look out for each other when coming together,” Los Angeles County public health director Barbara Ferrer said Monday. “While you’re out with others, please wear cloth face coverings. As much as possible, please practice physical distancing, keeping six feet apart from everyone else.”
“There’s a lot of risk of these gatherings becoming super-spreader events — that is events where a great deal of transmission of the COVID-19 virus is happening. We’ll need to work together to prevent these events from resulting in many more people becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Please care for and protect all of the people around you.”
Ferrer and County Supervisor Kathryn Barger both noted that given the 14-day incubation period for the coronavirus, the effects of the mass protests on the county’s COVID-19 crisis won’t be known for weeks.
“My biggest concern now is in two to three weeks, what is going to happen based on the conduct of individuals over the weekend,” Barger said. “And we don’t know. And we’re going to be watching very closely.”
Ferrer on Monday announced another 22 deaths due to the coronavirus, while Long Beach reported two more, raising the county’s total to 2,386.
She also announced another 978 cases of the illness, while Long Beach added 43 cases and Pasadena six, pushing the countywide total to 56,017.
Ferrer also confirmed the county’s first known case of a jail inmate dying due to the virus, along with the death of a pregnant woman, whose fetus also died. She also announced four more deaths among the county’s homeless population, raising the number of homeless who have died from the virus to 11.
Ferrer said the total number of health care workers who have contracted the virus was 5,398, up 537 from last week. She said 39 health care workers have died from the illness, up nine from last Monday.
Barger noted the devastating impact weekend violence had on county businesses, many of which were just beginning to reopen under loosened coronavirus health restrictions. She and Ferrer noted that the unrest in the county has not changed health restrictions, and businesses are still permitted to reopen as long as they meet guidelines to control capacity and protect
customers and employees.
But many businesses have been ordered to close their doors due to curfews imposed by the county and individual cities in response to protests.
Ferrer stressed the need for people taking part in those protests or gathering at any location to take precautions against spreading the virus.
“When I look and I see people on the beach that are really close together without face coverings or people on boardwalks that are really close together without face coverings or people that are peacefully protesting without face coverings, I’m going to be worried,” she said. “And you should
be worried as well.”
“We need to keep as much distance from each other when we’re out and about and we need to wear our face coverings, and that’s how we get through the pandemic,” she said. “So when we see examples where that’s not happening, its a cause for concern, and from my perspective, it’s also a reminder to each of us that we can help other people remember how to be respectful and kind to each other by using those cloth face coverings.”