Outbreak Fueled By Small Get-Togethers, Puts LA In Tough Spot

LOS ANGELES, CA — At least a third of the people recently infected with the coronavirus in Los Angeles admitted to attending small get togethers while about 10 percent admitted to attending larger gatherings, according to ongoing USC study. More than half of those recently infected reported being close contact with people outside their household.

The study also found that roughly one-third of recently infected respondents reported visiting another person’s home in the previous seven days, while one- third said they had visitors at their own home. About 10% said they had attended a gathering of 10 or more people in the past week.

The study is among the mounting evidence that the outbreak is on the rise again in large part because of small gatherings and parties in defiance of health orders. The damage such gatherings can do during the pandemic is staggering.

“I know this sounds like a small number, but if 10% of L.A. residents attend gatherings, this translates to 1 million people gathering with others not in their household,”Los Angeles County’s Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “And if we assume that 2% of people can be infected, we could possibly have 20,000 people capable of infecting others who are milling about at these gatherings each week.”

The findings should serve as a warning that the virus can as easily spread among friends and family as it can among strangers in public places. Los Angeles County’s public health director warned Monday of an already worsening COVID-19 situation becoming even more dire during the upcoming holiday season without rapid behavioral changes.

Patients who have become infected with the coronavirus show steady increases in interactions with people outside their own households,Barbara Ferrer said . The ongoing USC study found that for the week ending Oct. 20, 57% of survey respondents reported being in close contact with someone they don’t live with in the previous seven days.

Ferrer said the USC data, combined with information collected during contact-tracing interviews with virus patients, shows “there’s ample evidence that gatherings are increasing and are one of the drivers of the increases in cases in L.A. County.”

And with Thanksgiving just weeks away, Ferrer said concern is mounting that the holidays could make things worse.

“With our case numbers already on the rise, we are concerned about the upcoming months,” Ferrer said. “Holiday gatherings and cooler weather, when people are more likely to gather indoors, are perfect conditions for spreading COVID-19.”

Ferrer announced another 1,406 coronavirus cases on Monday — a day that is typically marked by relatively low daily case numbers due to reporting lags from the weekend. She noted that the county has reported almost 3,000 new cases over the last two days, a time of week when numbers are always lower than the rest of the week.

“So if that trend holds true, then we’re going to see higher numbers for the rest of this week,” she said. “And that would in fact not only create a

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‘Out of Control’: When Schools Opened in a Virus Hot Spot

A board member, Amanda Oaks, said that while there was concern nationally about the risks of students or teachers becoming ill from coronavirus in school, “My honest fear and the fear of some of my fellow board members is that that could completely flip the other direction as soon as we get a teen suicide associated with quarantine isolation.”

Some teachers in Canyons also feel strongly about the value of keeping schools open.

The teacher who was hospitalized, Charri Jensen, who teaches sewing and design, recovered enough to go home. In an interview, she said that she wanted people to take the virus more seriously. But she also said that when she was well enough she planned to go back to work.

She had become a high school teacher because she loved the social rituals of high school — “the dances and the football games and the assemblies and the extracurricular things” — and it made her sad, she said, that her students were missing out on some of those traditions.

There are these things I want these kids to be able to experience in life,” she said. “But then, is it worth it — for life, you know?”

The increase in cases, driven by 15-to-24-year-olds, began in early September, shortly after schools reopened and students returned to colleges. The state health department believes the surge started among college-age adults in Utah County, just south of Salt Lake County, home to the state’s two biggest universities, and then spread to high school students. Mr. Walker, the Draper mayor, thinks that some teenagers in his town were infected when older siblings came home from college for the weekend.

Since the semester started, a dozen schools in Salt Lake County have temporarily shifted to online learning because of high numbers of cases.

In September, as the Canyons board put off closing Corner Canyon High School, district officials and board members said that a vast majority of cases in the district’s schools were the result of exposures outside of school and that there was minimal spread within schools themselves.

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