California counties see virus spikes; Rose Parade canceled

LOS ANGELES (AP) — School districts barred campus reopenings, the Rose Parade was canceled and San Francisco doubled down on business restrictions as California hit a near-record level of confirmed coronavirus cases amid a surging outbreak.

Hospitalizations and rates of positive COVID-19 tests also rose on Tuesday and health officers voiced concern that intensive care units could be overwhelmed in some places unless the infection rate is reduced.

The situation is in “an alarming and dangerous phase” in the Los Angeles area, Barbara Ferrer, public health director for the nation’s largest county, said Wednesday.

Her comment came two days after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned that the city was “on the verge” of returning to shutting down all but essential businesses, while San Francisco on Wednesday announced it would retain its ban on indoor restaurant dining and businesses such as nail and hair salons that require close contact with customers.

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The moves were a troubling indication that authorities don’t expect an early end to the COVID-19 surge after managing to slower the infection spread earlier this year.

California reported 11,126 additional confirmed cases of the virus between Monday and Tuesday and 140 deaths, the second-highest one-day totals. The largest uptick, by far, was in Los Angeles County, which has a quarter of the state’s population.

It has had well over half of California’s nearly 7,200 COVID-19 deaths.

The county on Wednesday reported more than 2,700 new COVID-19 cases and said nearly 2,200 people were hospitalized, with 26% in intensive care. Multi-day averages for newly confirmed cases and hospitalizations were at their highest rates since the pandemic was declared, the Department of Public Health said.

Health officials believe much of the recent surge is coming from transmissions among social circles and families and friends gathering for summertime activities. While the elderly and infirm are most vulnerable, younger people — those between 18 and 40 — now are accounting for an increasingly large percentage of cases.

“I implore you to turn down that invitation to hang out with a group of friends,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. “In person gatherings are simply not worth the risk.”

The situation is so uncertain organizers of the 2021 Rose Parade in Pasadena canceled the New Year’s Day tradition for the first time in 75 years out of concern that even six months from now infections could spread among participants and the hundreds of thousands who line the route.

In San Diego County, the Del Mar racetrack canceled races for the upcoming weekend after 15 jockeys tested positive for the virus.

Meanwhile, in Northern California, San Francisco said it would continue to delay the reopening of many businesses because of a surge of infections in the city, where the positive case rate per 100,000 has increased to nearly 8%. The goal is to keep it at around 2%, said Dr. Grant Colfax, director of public health.

Even with the recent increase, San Francisco’s population of nearly 900,000 people has fared remarkably well during the pandemic, with a total of around 4,700 cases and 50 deaths.

The city has maintained some of the most stringent measures in the state since a shelter-in-place order in the San Francisco Bay Area began March 17. Unlike nearly every other county, it never reopened indoor dining, hair and nail salons, barbershops, museums, gyms, and other businesses considered high-risk for transmission of the virus.

Meanwhile, San Francisco and Sacramento became the latest major school districts to announce that classes would resume in the fall without on-site instruction. Los Angeles, San Diego and Oakland are among other districts with similar plans.

It’s not just California’s major urban areas that are seeing big increases in cases. In San Joaquin County on the northern edge of the state’s Central Valley agricultural region, ICUs are operating at 121%. San Joaquin County officials called in a federal medical assistance team of 20 physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists to help as medical centers add more beds.

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Associated Press journalists John Antczak in Los Angeles and Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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