Health official: LA sports fans may be contributing to spike in Covid-19 cases

At least 7,000 people have died from the coronavirus in L.A. County, public health officials announced Monday, a grim new landmark as the disease continues to spread, infecting more than 300,000 people in the nation’s most populous county.

L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer described that number of deaths as “another tragic milestone.”

“This pandemic has forced so many to sacrifice so much this year, and we recognize the frustration and disappointment with restrictions on large gatherings, celebrations and events,” Dr. Ferrer said in a news release. “For now, it is simply not safe to celebrate the way we usually do.”

In a press conference on Monday, Dr. Ferrer said there have been more people mixing than anticipated as sporting events bring people together across the area.

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA title earlier this month, the Dodgers currently lead the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in the World Series, and two LA NFL teams are back in action, she noted, reiterating calls for the public to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
 LeBron James (C) of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with teammates after winning the 2020 NBA Championship in Game Six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on October 11, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
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The NBA’s decision to organize a “bubble” at Disney World in Florida and resume playing allowed the league to finish its season without a single player, coach, or staff member testing postitive for Covd-19.

“Anytime you have a bubble, which is basically just … a fixed population inside a closed environment, you’re limiting the individuals that are allowed in and out of your environment,” James Borchers, a physician who specializes in sports medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center told Popular Science.

“When you’re able to do that and you can sterilize the environment, you’re going to have a better opportunity with a smaller group like that to limit the spread of the virus.”

Meanwhile the eight MLB teams that reached the division series introduced bubble environments and played at neutral sites. The Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays have also remained in bubble environments while playing the World Series at the neutral venue of Arlington, Texas.

Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers tags out Randy Arozarena #56 of the Tampa Bay Rays stolen base attempt during the third innings in Game Five of the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 25, 2020 in Arlington, Texas.
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‘We can prevent cases”

Celebrations and house parties were not fully taken into account when officials decided to resume sports without fans in the stands, according to Ferrer.

The greatest contributor to a rise in new infections, she said, “do correspond with gatherings happening more frequently as people come together with non-household members to watch games.”

County of Los Angeles Public Health has issued a Health Advisory of the high risk of transmission at private gatherings and public celebrations.

According to the departrment organization, the average number of daily cases has increased from 940 per day to nearly 1,200 per day since early October.

It also noted that recent contact tracing interviews over the course of three weeks showed that 55% of the people who knew of a possible exposure had attended an event or gathering where two or more people were sick.

Dodgers fans gather on an overlook as people attend a drive-in screening of Game 3 of the 2020 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays at a Dodger Stadium parking lot on October 23, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

In a statement, Dr. Muntu Davis of County of Los Angeles Public Health urged people not to attend public or private gatherings, and said failure to do so will lead to more illness and death.

“We have a lot to celebrate in the County, and it is critical that we all take action to slow the spread as we do,” he said. “That means not participating in public celebrations of any kind, which are high-risk.

“There have been too many instances of people unknowingly spreading the virus at these types of gatherings, which, sadly, has led to new infections, serious illness and death. We can prevent cases, but it will take action from each of us personally and collectively.”