Keep Wearing Masks, Social Distancing: COVID-19 Isn’t Over

As daily new cases of COVID-19 skyrocket in Los Angeles County, officials are urging residents to remain as cautious as they were in the early days of the pandemic.
Gov. Gavin Newsom and county officials have been curtailing their recent phases of “reopening” as health officials fear a surge in patients who are suffering from the coronavirus. Restaurants are once again closed for interior dine-in service while bars were again shuttered altogether; meanwhile, school districts are wrangling with how they approach the upcoming school year, and universities like USC have already pulled the plug on plans to include some physical classes this year.
“We are seeing an uptick in COVID-19 positive hospitalizations due to the increased community spread of the virus,” said Dorey Huston, senior manager of public relations and media at Huntington Hospital, in an email. “This is likely the result of the recent reopening of businesses and the desire for people to gather with family and friends over these summer holidays.”
According to Huntington’s website dashboard, there were 64 patients being hospitalized with COVID-19 as of press time on Wednesday. Since March 6, the hospital had tested 7,954 patients for the disease, with 884 coming up positive; 22 tests were still pending Wednesday.
“These numbers are still below the peak we experienced in late April,” Huston noted. “We are prepared to continue to treat all patients within our hospital walls for the time being. This includes designated COVID-19 units. We have a surge plan that we will activate when needed to ensure all beds at the hospital are available to care for the sickest patients.
“Our hospital currently has surge tents at 10 Congress which remains available as we monitor COVID-19 cases,” Huston continued. “We are currently approximately 25% of our ICU capacity, which does not include our expanded bed capacity as part of our surge plan. Huntington Hospital has ample resources to care for our community.”
As of press time, South Pasadena has had a total of 175 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents, with 84 of them residents of the South Pasadena Care Center; skilled nursing facilities and other institutional residential settings were hit particularly hard in the early days of the pandemic, as the coronavirus is of particular risk to the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions or compromised immune systems.
Eric Zanteson, a division chief with the South Pasadena Fire Department, said Wednesday that more new cases are happening among residents throughout the city as of late. The Fire Department’s paramedics handle the city’s medical calls along with those from San Marino’s station.
“In terms of fire department response, we have not seen a spike at the skilled nursing facilities, because in essence, all of those who were susceptible have, unfortunately, likely been through it and we have stabilized to an extent the congregant living facilities,” he said. “We have seen an uptick in those responses recently and we have responded to those at home complaining of symptoms of COVID.”
There have been 23 deaths associated with COVID-19 among South Pasadena patients, most of who appear to be linked to the Care Center. Additionally, county figures indicate that one of the 31 employees there who has been diagnosed have died from the disease.
Zanteson said he agreed that the reopening likely contributed to the recent surge in cases — L.A. County reached a record 4,015 new cases on Monday this week. Although there is speculation that large protests throughout June may have been a factor, Zanteson said “there hasn’t been a nexus to that yet.”
At any rate, he recalled the recent adage coined by Caltech seismologist Lucy Jones — “Don’t share your air,” she said — and urged people to continue social distancing of at least 6 feet, to wear facemasks when out in public and to just avoid going out if it’s not necessary.
“Nothing has changed for us,” Zanteson said. “We are still operating with the expectation that all members of the public that we encounter are potentially asymptomatic. Unfortunately, there are significant numbers of the public that have essentially returned to prior-to-pandemic practices and may not be taking the severity of this illness to heart. As a result, we’re seeing a spike in cases, not just locally but in other states as well, and the concern is that if we don’t return to mid-pandemic practices, that we will have a significant number of individuals who are very sick.”
— Andy Lippman contributed to this report.