LOS ANGELES, CA — The top health officials in Los Angeles County conceded to a slew of miscalculations in the early stages of the pandemic Monday, but it’s those hard lessons that are guiding the community out of the latest outbreak.
Early on, experts erred in downplaying the spread of the disease among asymptomatic carriers and in denying the value of masks in halting the spread of COVID-19, acknowledged Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health department director. But as officials mandate social distancing and face coverings, there is evidence that the spread of the virus is slowing, again, in Los Angeles. The county’s seven-day positivity rate has reached 8.4%, a sharp declined from earlier in the month when the tally of new coronavirus cases skyrocketed. The county recently shut down three major employers in the food industry that endured outbreaks after failing to comply with health protocols. The closures send a message that the protocols aren’t optional.
“I’m the first one to admit, you know, how wrong we were when we thought there wasn’t a lot of asymptomatic spread, and how wrong we were when we didn’t think that masking up, wearing cloth face coverings, was going to afford a lot of protection,” Ferrer said. “As we move through, I keep top of mind as we continue to learn more about this virus we have to make other adjustments in the future, and that’s just the path that we’re on.
“Right now we’re laser-focused on making sure that people understand that we have some tools at hand that allow us to slow the spread. We also know now without a doubt that wearing face coverings really helps protect other people and may in fact protect the wearer,” she said. “We’ve learned. The science is catching up to being able to help us as we produce directives and guidance and as we move forward, we have to take every opportunity to take whatever tools we have right now. Use them to our full capacity to slow the spread. There will be more tools in the future and that will change what we’re able to do or not able to do. I am hopeful around changes that will happen around testing … and I’m very hopeful about there being therapeutics and a vaccine.”
While honing in on effective strategies to slow the spread, county officials are relying on compliance within the business community and turning to enforcement when that fails.
Ferrer said Monday three more local businesses had to be shuttered due to large-scale outbreaks and failure to comply with operating protocols. She al
“They had significant outbreaks among their employees,” Barbara Ferrer said, noting that all three had 40-plus COVID-19 cases and hadn’t notified the county as required.
Golden State Foods Corp. in Industry had 43 confirmed cases of the virus, according to Ferrer and the county’s website. S&S Foods in Azusa had 58 cases. Ferrer said the third company was a Mission Foods facility, but its location and number of cases were not immediately posted online.
News of the shutdowns came just days after county officials confirmed that Los Angeles Apparel, site of the county’s worst COVID-19 outbreak — with four deaths and about 375 confirmed cases — had been allowed to reopen its clothing factory after making changes in training and infection-control measures.
It also came as Ferrer made a renewed call for regional cooperation and commitment among residents and business owners to slow the spread of the virus and avoid a return to more dramatic stay-at-home orders.
“I’ve said before that additional rollbacks or closures must remain on the table,” Ferrer said. “But at this stage in the pandemic, we believe we have a lot of tools available that if fully utilized should allow us to slow the spread without going back to the more stringent Safer-At-Home orders that were in place earlier in the pandemic.”
The county had earlier promoted avoidance of “three C’s”: crowded places, confined spaces and close contact with others. On Monday, Ferrer rolled out another “three C’s”: compliance, containment and collaboration, all aimed at urging adherence to control measures such as wearing face coverings and physical distancing, along with stepped up testing and cooperation with contact tracers and working collaboratively across all sectors of government and business sectors.
“Our businesses and our employers must also do their part, and they’re required to alert us to any outbreaks at their work sites,” Ferrer said. “Employers remain key to ensuring that we can move forward in our recovery journey.”
Ferrer confirmed another 17 deaths due to the virus, bringing the total to 4,375.
She also announced 2,039 new cases, lifting the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 176,028.
Ferrer noted that — as has been the case the last few days — the case numbers may be lower than expected due to an issue with statistical reporting by the state.
She also again stressed that younger residents are driving the recent increase in cases, noting that since May, the majority of new cases have occurred in people aged 18-49. She said the 18-to-29 age group “is accounting for a sharply increasing percentage of cases,” while “all the other age groups are either flat or decreasing slightly.”
It’s that younger group that can be increasingly difficult to reach, with officials noting in recent weeks that younger residents are more likely to be gathering in groups, holding parties or generally believing they are not vulnerable to the virus.
Ferrer has repeatedly warned that while young people may not be in danger of falling dramatically ill due to the virus, they can easily spread it to people who are.
She conceded some frustration among some residents at the changing nature of health restrictions as the pandemic has progressed.
City News Service
This article originally appeared on the Studio City Patch