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L.A. County at ‘most difficult moment in the pandemic’ as hospitals fill up, cases soar

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Los Angeles County is at “the most difficult moment in the pandemic,” with coronavirus cases and COVID-19 hospitalizations surging, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday.

The county reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases Monday, and officials said they are holding out hope that new restrictions might slow the spread before hospitals reach a crisis point.

“We don’t really have any choice but to use all the tools at hand to stop the surge,” Ferrer said during a briefing. “Until there is a vaccine, each of us needs to protect all of those around us — both those we know and those we don’t. The virus is running rampant through almost every part of our county.”

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Officials in L.A. County rolled out a targeted safer-at-home order that is in effect through Dec. 20. It closes public playgrounds; sets new capacity limits on retail stores, outdoor museums, galleries, zoos and aquariums; and prohibits all gatherings among people from different households, except for outdoor religious services and political demonstrations. Those limitations are on top of restrictions that went into effect last week, including a controversial renewed ban on outdoor dining.

Though she acknowledged the disruption that comes with new restrictions, Ferrer said health officials have tried to be more targeted in their efforts to slow the spread of the disease. But, she said, the county can’t sit idly by as conditions worsen — particularly in terms of the healthcare system.

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On Monday, there were 2,185 COVID-19 patients hospitalized countywide. A week ago, there were 1,473.

“The increases we’re seeing now are not sustainable,” Ferrer said. “They’re … going to overwhelm not just our healthcare system but the entire state’s healthcare system. So we’re going to have to do everything we can, and hopefully everyone gets on board with this. It’s three weeks. We’ve done this for much longer in the past and with many more restrictions.”

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