L.A. County Issues Health Advisory for Gatherings and Public Celebrations as Daily COVID-19 Cases Rise

Public Health says trick-or-treating and trunk or treating are not safe during a pandemic. | Courtesy photo by Ben Shan on Unsplash

On Monday, Los Angeles County Health Officer Muntu Davis issued a health advisory for private gatherings and public celebrations advising residents that the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission at such celebrations is high based on the increasing rate of COVID-19 community transmission in Los Angeles County. The announcement came as the county reached the grim milestone of 7,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and 300,614 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County.

Since early October, Los Angeles County’s average number of daily cases has increased from around 940 per day to almost 1,200 per day. This increase, while not as steep as seen in July, concerns public health officials. Additionally, recent contact tracing interviews over the course of three weeks showed that 55% of the people who knew of a possible exposure had attended an event or gathering where two or more people were sick.

“As cases are increasing in our community, so is the risk of COVID-19. We have a lot to celebrate in the County, and it is critical that we all take action to slow the spread as we do,” said Davis. “That means not participating in public celebrations of any kind, which are high-risk. There have been too many instances of people unknowingly spreading the virus at these types of gatherings, which, sadly, has led to new infections, serious illness and death. We can prevent cases, but it will take action from each of us personally and collectively.”

As families consider how to celebrate Halloween, Public Health says trick-or-treating and trunk or treating are not safe during a pandemic, and strongly recommend that residents not participate in these activities since they carry the risk of increased exposure to the virus through crowding, mixing with non-household individuals, and communal food handling. Instead, Public Health recommends participating in a virtual party, a walk (socially distanced and masked) or a drive around to see decorated houses, a scavenger hunt at home, or a Halloween drive-in movie. Parties, haunted houses, carnivals, and other larger gatherings are not safe this Halloween and are not permitted under the health officer order.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer acknowledged the strain these restrictions take on people. “This pandemic has forced so many to sacrifice so much this year, and we recognize the frustration and disappointment with restrictions on large gatherings, celebrations and events,” said Ferrer. “For now, it is simply not safe to celebrate the way we usually do.  Being close to others not in our household, carries with it a lot of risk for transmitting COVID-19, so it remains necessary to modify activities to be as safe as possible.”

Ferrer also warned about gatherings where people from different households congregate to watch and cheer on their sports teams. “We have all seen the pictures of sports fans rooting for their teams where they’re shouting in the middle of a large crowd, and almost no one is wearing a face covering. This is the perfect setting for transmitting the virus,” she said.

Ferrer says that while “it’s really wonderful that we have both incredible teams with so much talent,” referring to the Lakers and Dodgers, gathering in crowds, even at outdoor door restaurants, to watch games or celebrate is “just not sensible.”

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, those who plan to host or attend a private gathering must adhere to the following Public Health protocols:

  • Hold the gathering outdoors with physical distancing between households.
  • Limit the gathering to three households, including the host and all guests.
  • Attendees muse wear cloth face coverings when not eating or drinking.
  • Food must be served in single-serve disposable containers.
  • The gathering should be kept to two hours or less.

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