Protests Trigger Fears of Uptick in COVID-19 Cases
Just as Los Angeles was preparing to move into its latest new state of normal with the reopening of restaurants for on-site dining, salons for grooming, and shopping inside boutiques, a week of protests and riots derailed that trajectory. Fears of an uptick in COVID-19 cases related to the lack of social distancing, insufficient face coverings and chanting in close proximity are rampant.
On Tuesday evening, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti urged all participants in the protests to get tested for COVID-19.
“Please, please, please, everybody who’s been out there protesting, so beautifully around Los Angeles, make sure you get tested, and make sure you’re maintaining your physical distance, that you’re washing your hands, and wearing a mask,” Mayor Garcetti urged during his June 2 public announcement. “Imagine if these days lead to a spread that leads to things getting worse, and more people dying. Please, go to coronavirus.lacity.org/testing and get a test.”
Protestors made their way into Beverly Hills on May 30, and a for a few days after that. “We know the physical distancing and the masks, and washing of the hands, are what’s most important to prevent the spread,” Beverly Hills Medical Advisory Task Force member Dr. Lee Hilborne told the Courier. “The problem we’re seeing is that many of the people that are out there protesting are doing so without masks and not maintaining the distance from each other. It is a risk.”
“It’s reasonable to anticipate there would be an uptick,” added Hilborne, a UCLA Health Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Health and Safety Commissioner for the City of Beverly Hills. “What we should be doing is testing the people who are out protesting three or four days after they’ve been out protesting.”
In the wake of the civil unrest and the ensuing curfews, testing sites across L.A. County had restricted hours, with all COVID-19 testing centers in the City of L.A. closed May 30 due to
safety concerns. Roughly half of the County’s testing facilities have remained closed into this week. Testing capacity continues to increase throughout the county, with around eight percent of the nearly 646,000 individuals tested having confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Amidst the protests, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a statement that “everyone engaging in peaceful protest should always wear a face covering securely over their nose and mouth to protect others and keep six feet apart from people outside their household” due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of widespread transmission.
“Because the incubation period for COVID- 19 is 14 days, if you think you’ve had a possible exposure to the virus because you’ve been in close proximity for 15 minutes or more with others who are not wearing face-coverings, please consider remaining away from all others for 14 days,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health for L.A. County, stated in a press release issued June 3. “If you have been exposed and have people in your home who are at greater risk of having serious illness from the virus because they are older or have underlying health conditions, it is very important to take all precautions to not expose vulnerable people. This includes staying at least six feet away and wearing a cloth face covering, even in your residence. If during the 14 days, you develop symptoms, please call your healthcare provider and consider testing.”
As of June 2, L.A. County had a total of 57,118 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (139 in Beverly Hills), including 1,202 new cases. To date, 2,443 people in the county have died from the virus, including five in Beverly Hills. There are currently 1,422 people who are now hospitalized from COVID-19, 26 percent of whom are in the Intensive Care Unit and 17 percent of whom are on ventilators. Statewide, California has over 118,000 confirmed cases and 4,361 deaths. Worldwide there are over 6.5 million cases of COVID-19, including almost 400,000 deaths.