Sidewalk marker

Social distancing marker by L.A. City College in East Hollywood.

Los Angeles County reported 1,224 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths today, bringing the county's totals to 311,745 cases and 7,097 fatalities.

The numbers come as public health officials continued to warn that the area's coronavirus crisis is worsening and threatens to become even more dire during the upcoming holiday season unless behaviors rapidly change.

"With our cases increasing, we are concerned about holiday gatherings and cooler weather where people are more likely to gather indoors. These are perfect conditions for spreading COVID-19," the Los Angeles County Health Department tweeted.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that surveys of residents and patients who have become infected with the coronavirus show steady increases in interactions with people outside their own households, providing mounting evidence of residents ignoring health orders. She said an 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.

The study also found that roughly one-third of respondents that week 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.

"We don't have to endure the worst scenarios that this pandemic can create if everyone and every business takes responsibility to stop COVID-19 from spreading," Ferrer said Tuesday. "When safety directives are not followed, we see cases, hospitalizations and deaths increase. When everyone distances, wears face coverings, and follows public health guidance, we see cases, hospitalizations and deaths decrease. There are many businesses and schools that have not yet re-opened because COVID-19 is spreading at concerning levels. When we ask everyone to follow safety measures that slow the spread of the virus, it is to save lives and so that we can get to a place where we can reopen more of our county."

The number of people hospitalized in the county due to the virus was 798 on Tuesday, up from 777 on Monday but close to the 799 on Sunday.

The county is still in the most restrictive "purple" tier of California's four-tiered coronavirus monitoring system, and will need to lower daily case numbers to about 700 to have a chance to move up.

"If we do nothing or continue on the path we're currently on as a country, the cases will continue to rise," Ferrer said. "... I have faith that we're going to get back to slowing the spread, and we have to get back to slowing the spread right now."

She added: "We'd have to stop with the gatherings. ... We're pretty convinced at this point that these smaller gatherings where people feel pretty safe because they're with friends and extended family are in fact fueling a lot of the increase, because they're just not as safe as we'd like to believe they are."

Of the 23 new deaths reported Tuesday, six people were over the age of 80, 13 were between 65 and 79, three were between 50 and 64, and one was between 18 and 29.

Officials also said compliance teams from the county health department continue to visit businesses every day, and the checks have revealed "good compliance with many aspects of Public Health protocols."

From Oct. 22-25, a total of 14 citations were issued to businesses including restaurants and places of worship for noncompliance with health officer orders. Since the end of August, a total of 220 citations have been issued.

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