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How Los Angeles became the biggest coronavirus hotspot in the country

LOS ANGELES – In Los Angeles County, an average of 10 people are positive for coronavirus every minute. Every six minutes, someone dies from Covid-19, according to county public health data.

The startling figures come as California’s most populous county is rapidly approaching 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began last year.

According to public health officials, more than 958,400 people in Los Angeles were infected with the virus and nearly 13,000 people died by Wednesday. The numbers are equally sobering across the country. California has nearly 2.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 31

,000 deaths as of Wednesday, according to NBC News. A more contagious variant of the virus has also been found in the region.

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Epidemiologists and select officials face an awkward question when the Covid-19 crisis in Los Angeles metastasizes: How did Los Angeles become the center of the pandemic?

“Los Angeles is a fairly large, complex county with factors such as overcrowding, poverty, and a large material workforce,” said Dr. Kirsten Bibins-Domingo, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “These things came together at the same time in the pandemic, where we also see great fatigue and reduced adherence to the basic things one has to do to be safe, such as wearing a mask.”

Motorists lined up to take coronavirus tests in a parking lot at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on January 4.Ringo HW Chiu / AP

In many ways, Los Angeles was uniquely vulnerable to the crisis.

Pandemic fatigue occurs as colder weather and shorter days approach, making outdoor activities less attractive even in a region known for its temperate climate. This, combined with holiday travel, gatherings and a large substantial workforce, with many members living in crowded or crowded homes, has created a fusion of problems.

“At least the way this virus is transmitted, you don’t have to have the ‘Kitchen of Hell’ type for urban density,” said Dr. George Rutherford, also an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “Los Angeles has small family homes with a lot of people in them. It’s hard to be a gardener working from home.”

The convergence of environmental factors continues to embarrass public health officials, who have repeatedly warned that the next few weeks could be the worst of the pandemic as the post-holiday jump continues.

On Monday, county government officials issued new recommendations for key workers and people who perform basic orders to wear masks in their own homes to avoid infecting loved ones, especially those at high risk.

“One of the most heartbreaking conversations our health workers share is … when children apologize to their parents and grandparents for bringing Cowdid home to get sick,” said Hilda Solis, chairwoman. of the Los Angeles County Board of Directors, said during a news conference Tuesday. “These apologies are just some of the last words loved ones will ever hear when they die alone.”

According to public health officials, the recent jump began in early November, shortly after private gatherings were allowed, personal hygiene services were opened, the Dodgers won the World Series and Halloween weekend.

Less than a month later, the county was forced to reintroduce restrictions first introduced in the spring, including ending open-air dinners, limiting the number of people allowed in mainstream businesses and banning multiple households from gathering. indoors or outdoors. A modified Thanksgiving order was issued around Thanksgiving, but by then the cases were already increasing exponentially.

“Once you stand behind the eight balls, it’s hard to put the gin back in the bottle,” Bibins-Domingo said. “That’s the situation you don’t want to be in.”

Yet this is the scenario that is currently unfolding in much of Southern California, where hospitals remain overcrowded with Covid-19 patients. According to Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles has experienced a 1,000 percent increase in Covid-19 cases since Nov. 1.

“Everyone should keep in mind that the speed of transmission in the community is so high that you run the risk of being exposed when you leave home,” she told a news conference last week. “Let’s assume that this deadly invisible virus is everywhere and looking for a willing host.”

But almost a year after the pandemic, fatigue seems to be everywhere.

Mixed reports from elected leaders have only exacerbated feelings of fatigue, experts say, starting with the federal government’s early downsizing of the coronavirus to state and city levels, where opinions on what should remain open and what should remain closed can vary considerably.

“The federal government needs to have the confusion of the messages and the resistance it creates,” Rutherford said.

Experts also point to confusion and frustration stemming from strict home warrants issued at the start of the pandemic, when California had relatively low coronavirus cases. Unlike New York, which stopped after cases jumped sharply, Los Angeles preemptively closed many businesses and restricted outdoor activities before experiencing such a jump, prompting some residents and local leaders to question the effectiveness of the restrictions.

“You have to think about the psychology behind it,” Bibbins-Domingo said. “When you see the devastation that New York experienced early on, it’s easier to implement solid public health strategies. It is much harder to do 10 months when people are tired. “

Despite the deadly tide, protesters took to the streets this month, marching through grocery stores and malls, calling for a resumption of California’s economy and encouraging people to oppose the state’s mandate.

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Part of the resistance came after the election of leaders who break the rules they seek to impose. Gov. Gavin Newsum and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, both Democrats, were filmed eating indoors last year at a luxury provincial wine restaurant while House President Nancy Pelosi was seen cutting her hair, although many salons remained closed throughout. country.

The reaction was rapid up and down in California.

Small business owners protested against orders to stay at home, and efforts to seize Newsom quickly gained momentum. In Orange and Riverside counties, sheriff’s departments have indicated that enforcing a home stay will not be a priority once the restrictions take effect, while some restaurants in San Diego and Los Angeles have been openly opposing home stay orders for weeks.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle in reducing transmission speeds, Bibbins-Domingo said, is convincing people that their actions can save lives.

“If we cannot accept and understand how our destinies are connected, we will not return to normal,” she said.

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