Places of worship permitted to hold modified indoor services
DAYS before Christmas, Los Angeles County reached another grim milestone of hitting over 600,000 positive cases since the pandemic began.
Based on the new total, more than 100,000 new cases alone were reported since December 11, when the county had reached the 500,000 mark.
The County Department of Public Health has identified 623,670 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County and a total of 8,875 deaths as of this writing, after it confirmed 58 new deaths and 13,315 additional cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, December 20.
There are 5,549 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 21% of these people are in the ICU, the department said.
“We are bearing witness every day to the terrible suffering caused by a virus that is spreading out of control throughout the county. Places where people from different households gather and do not follow safety directives contributes to unnecessary COVID-19 spread that results in hospitalizations and deaths that could have been avoided,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
The county began its vaccination campaign with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, prioritizing frontline health care workers at highest exposure to COVID-19. Further, an initial shipment of the Moderna vaccine, which received an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, is slated to arrive in the county this week.
Despite the progress, officials continue to remind the public to stay home, only leaving for work or essential services, and to not mingle with others outside of their households.
Down in Orange County, 119,822 cumulative cases have been reported and 1,760 deaths.
“[Recently] the HCA announced the deployment of mobile field hospitals to support our local health care system, which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 positive patients,” said Dr. Clayton Chau, Orange County Health Officer and director of the OC Health Care Agency. “This sounds alarming because it is alarming. I implore our residents not to gather with other households and limit upcoming holiday celebrations to those you live with.”
The ICU capacities in Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley remain at 0%, according to the California Department of Public Health. Meanwhile, the Bay Area is at 12.2% and the Greater Sacramento region at 15%. The only area not under the state’s regional stay-at-home order is Northern California, which is at 22.4%.
Regions must remain under the order for at least three weeks and will be eligible to exit the order and return to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy only if ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to 15%.
To date, California has recorded 1,854,456 cases and 22,593 fatalities. The 7-day positivity rate is 13.3% and the 14-day positivity rate is 12.0%.
Indoor religious services
LA County health officials has reversed a ban on indoor religious services after the Supreme Court sided with a Southern California church that challenged the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
Over the summer, Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena argued that the state’s ban on in-person worship services went against the freedom of expressing religion. Under the state’s reopening plan, counties in the purple tier had been restricted from holding indoor religious services.
Faith-based services will be allowed to operate indoors and outdoors while following public health measures.
“Places of worship are permitted to offer faith-based services both indoors and outdoors with mandatory physical distancing and face coverings over both the nose and mouth that must be worn at all times while on site,” reads a statement released by LA County health officials Saturday, December 19.
Under the new guidelines, places of worship will have to maintain at least six feet distance between individuals of different households. The attendance must not exceed the number of individuals who can be accommodated.
With this new approval, county officials are still encouraging outdoor services to help slow the spread of the virus.
“Because Los Angeles County is experiencing an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, every effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to congregants and to the entire community is critical,” a county statement read.