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State Passes 1 Million COVID-19 Cases; L.A. County, Pasadena Remain in Most-Restrictive Purple Tier

Local health expert cites pandemic fatigue as a contributing factor

Published on Thursday, November 12, 2020 | 3:38 pm

As Los Angeles County was struggling to escape the state’s restrictive purple tier prohibiting school and business reopenings, the state was surpassing the 1 million case mark in the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, state officials announced that 1,000,535 people have been infected with COVID-19, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11.

“We’re forgetting,” said Daisy Dodd, infectious disease specialist with Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena, “we’re mingling together, people are sick of being locked up and not being able to interact, so they’re having larger gatherings and they might not necessarily be taking the proper precautions, the masking, the distancing, and, you know, the hand-washing.”

Lax attitudes about fighting the virus have sent efforts at prevention in the wrong direction.

Pasadena Public Health Department officials reported 19 new infections Thursday, but no new deaths. The city has seen a total of 3,027 cases of the virus and 129 deaths, with the last fatality reported on Oct. 8.

Over the prior week, Pasadena recorded an average of 19.6 new infections each day, according to city data.

Huntington Hospital reported treating 27 COVID-19 patients on Thursday.

For the first time since the tier system was implemented, no counties advanced last week to a less-restrictive level. Three counties, including San Diego County, regressed to the most-restrictive “purple” tier from the less-onerous “red” level.

Five other counties moved backward from the “orange” level into the “red” tier, while three others slipped out of the least-restrictive “yellow” level and back into the “orange” tier.

For one week, Los Angeles County hit the threshold to advance to the “red” tier, but failed to maintain low infection rates for a second week. Counties must meet the guidelines for two consecutive weeks to move up the color-coded ladder.

The surge has left Pasadena unable to get businesses reopened and local students back in school.

“The trendline has to change and move in the other direction in order for us to make progress towards the other tier,” Pasadena Public Health Director Dr. Ying-Ying Goh told the City Council on Monday. “I hope every day we can move in that direction, but it requires the cooperation and actions of everybody in L.A. County.”

The surge has increased concerns about more lockdowns. In Northern California, county leaders were taking action to limit the spread of the virus. In Alameda County, officials froze reopenings, although that county is in the orange tier, indicating a moderate infection rate.

“The behaviors that we do now to limit the spread are paramount and most important,” said Dr. Kristian Schwab, a pulmonologist and critical care physician with UCLA Health who treats adult patients with general pulmonary conditions and has a particular focus on ICU recovery and COVID-19 pulmonary disease.

“I think the longer-term solution will hopefully be a vaccine. And there seems to be some promising results that have been coming out in the last couple of days. But still, I think that it will be a while until the entire public has access to the vaccine,” Schwab said.

“Doing what we can now and taking these measures on the individual level to help protect the whole community is really important,” she said.

Health officials have misgivings about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, which they believe will lead to even more infections.

After months of restrictions, officials fear many people will make exceptions and attend gatherings that will further increase infections as California begins the holiday season.

Health officials have seen previous spikes after holidays earlier this year.

“If we don’t slow the spread now, we’re heading into a very unfortunate holiday season,” LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors on Monday.

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