Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has finally admitted that recent protests and mass demonstrations in Los Angeles have led to a spike in coronavirus cases after getting a reality check from public health officials.
I talked again with [Director of Public Health] Dr Barbara Ferrer about that this morning. She does think some of the spread did come from our protests,’ the mayor told reporters at a Wednesday press conference.
‘It’s not the act of protesting — that’s a great and American thing to do no matter what your opinion is… but protesting without maintaining physical distancing, without wearing your mask, without having sanitizer — we just have to be smart.’
Just two days earlier Garcetti was singing a different tune as he fielded questions about possible link between protests, the surge of new cases and hospitalizations increasing 56% over the last two weeks. LA County had recorded the largest one-day number of new infections since the pandemic began, with over 100,000 new infections.
He delivered the grim news that, “Over the course of the coming week, it is estimated that [1 out of 140] will fall to 1 out of 100 or even 1 out of 70 residents of LA county,” but refused to admit there was any connection to the protests.
“We follow the data closely. There’s no evidence yet that the protests led to much spread, though it’s something that Doctor Ferrer has hypothesized, but we haven’t seen any conclusive evidence there,” Garcetti said Monday.
People still can obviously and should exercise their First Amendment rights. This is a critical moment not to let up with that,” he said.
The mayor is now saying people were not wary enough of the health risks associated with congregating in large crowds and were not taking proper precautions while going out to protest.
‘Whether you’re at a protest or at your home, whether in your workplace or whether you’re out shopping, these rules don’t change,’ said Garcetti.
‘We do believe there is a connection, we don’t believe that everybody has been doing this safely and wherever you can, please stay at home.’
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer urged residents during the Wednesday briefing to avoid crowded situations.
“In situations where people are close together for longer periods of time, and it’s very crowded, we are certain that there is going to be spread,” Dr. Ferrer said.
“We have never said that there’s no spread from people who are protesting, and we have, in fact, said that those very same conditions that allow for spread among people who may be protesting apply in all kinds of other situations as well.”
Last Monday Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger broke with Democratic leaders in the city and squarely blamed the protesters for the explosion of new cases.
“I definitely think there’s a direct correlation between the protesters and the spike,” she told CBS Los Angeles. “I mean, obviously, the opening up probably threw something into it.
“But remember, the first night that we had the protesters was the first day that restaurants and all were allowed to reopen — many of them did not.”
She noted that most of the county’s new cases were people between the ages of 18-40, and highlighted the virtually impossible task of contract tracing thousands of protesters.
“It’s not a criticism per se, what the protesters were protesting about,” she said. “A lot of the protesters were not wearing a mask, and they definitely were not social distancing. And I believe that that’s what we’re seeing play out right now is as a result of that.”
As of Wednesday, there were 107,667 confirmed cases in the city and 3,454 deaths, according to the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.