Los Angeles in 'dangerous phase' as virus cases surge

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Workers direct cars as they wait in line for coronavirus testing at Dodger Stadium Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LOS ANGELES – Coronavirus cases have surged to record levels in the Los Angeles area, putting the nation’s largest county in “an alarming and dangerous phase” that if not reversed could overwhelm intensive care units and usher in more sweeping closures, health officials said Wednesday.

The situation is so uncertain organizers of the 2021 Rose Parade in Pasadena canceled the New Year's Day tradition for the first time in 75 years out of concern that even six months from now infections could spread among participants and the hundreds of thousands who line the route.

That move came two days after California Gov. Gavin Newsom shut bars and indoor dining statewide, and ordered closures of hair salons, gyms, malls and other indoor businesses in Los Angeles and other counties experiencing the most significant surge of virus cases. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti warned authorities were “on the verge” of resorting to shutting down all but essential businesses.

Statewide figures reported Wednesday confirmed 11,126 additional cases of the virus on Tuesday and 140 deaths, the second-highest one-day totals. Los Angeles County, home to a quarter of the state’s population, reported 2,758 more confirmed cases and 44 deaths. The county’s overall death total is just under 4,000 — well over half California's total of about 7,200.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said further restrictions are “on the table” if trend lines continue to show that hospitals could become overwhelmed.

“Do we want to go back to a safer-at-home order where we close everything down again? Absolutely not. None of us want to go back there,” Ferrer said. She said people must wear masks and maintain social distancing to slow the spread.

Health officials believe much of the recent surge is coming from transmissions among social circles and families and friends gathering for traditional summertime activities. While the elderly and infirm are most vulnerable, younger people — those between 18 and 40 — now are accounting for an increasingly large percentage of cases.

“I implore you to turn down that invitation to hang out with a group of friends,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “In person gatherings are simply not worth the risk.”