Even though the sustained decline in hospitalizations of coronavirus patients since late July has reversed, California still has ample room in its hospitals. On Thursday, 3,987 people in the state were hospitalized with the virus, a 32 percent increase from two weeks ago.
Public health officials in Los Angeles County were alarmed on Saturday after jubilant residents flooded the streets when the presidential election was called for Joseph R. Biden Jr. Worried the spontaneous celebrations could become superspreader events, the department of public health posted a notice recommending that celebrations take place over “virtual platforms.”
“Let us remember that no matter how we feel, we all have an obligation to protect each other from Covid-19,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said in the notice. “Gathering with people outside of your household, especially in settings where people are shouting, chanting or singing and not distancing can easily lead to increased cases of Covid-19.”
In Los Angeles County, case counts have shot up even in communities that have made a priority of controlling the virus. Colleges have pivoted almost entirely to remote instruction in California, allowing only a small fraction of the usual number of students to live in campus housing, where most have been intensively tested.
No matter. At the University of California, Los Angeles — which has closed its campus to all but essential visits and limited dorm occupancy to 5 percent of the normal level — an off-campus Halloween party left 29 students infected and in isolation this week, said Ricardo Vazquez, a university spokesman. At Claremont McKenna College, where campus housing has been closed, health authorities this week emailed students to warn that several of them had tested positive after parties in the nearby Inland Empire.
And at the University of Southern California, where classes, which are all remote, are scheduled to end on Friday, the coronavirus dashboard showed a positivity rate of nearly 8 percent and a spike of 50 new cases among students. U.S.C.’s chief health officer, Dr. Sarah Van Orman, said the flare-up stemmed largely from study groups and other small gatherings in private off-campus apartments. At least one case, however, was a member of the women’s basketball team, whose positive test prompted the quarantine of the entire roster this week.
The virus has underscored the sheer scale of the economic and public health challenge in California. The food program at the Los Angeles public school system, which serves some 700,000 mostly low-income students scattered over more than 700 square miles, has already evolved into the largest school-based relief effort in the United States.