Virus Surges Anew, Raising Fears on Holiday Weekend

Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center has seen an uptick in hospitalizations since the recent surge in coronavirus cases.
Photo by Charles Hirsch / Burbank Leader

Los Angeles County’s reopening plan took a significant step backward with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reinstatement of some restrictions on indoor activities on Wednesday due to an alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in California.
“Bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said in a news conference. “We’re seeing parts of the state where we are seeing an increase in not only the total number of positive cases but a significant increase in the total number of people that are getting tested that are testing positive — meaning the positivity rate, not just the total case rate, is beginning to go up to a degree that obviously generates some concern.”
That concern prompted the governor to order the closure of many indoor operations in 19 counties, including Los Angeles, affecting businesses in Burbank.
Restaurants must be closed for indoor dining until further notice, and closures also extend to wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, bars and card rooms. Gyms can remain open, but staff members and patrons must wear cloth face coverings and gloves.
Restrictions from the state come just before the Fourth of July holiday, and Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer encouraged residents to follow health guidelines this weekend.
“Currently, positive cases continue to increase within L.A. County and gatherings of people who are not part of a single household are still prohibited, with only a few exceptions,” she wrote in an email. “With increasing cases, we really need to flatten the curve. During the coming holiday, people will want to celebrate together and enjoy each other. I encourage you to stay home and if you participate, it’s very important to be safe, practice social distancing, wear your mask and wash your hands.”
Dr. Angelique Campen, an emergency room physician at Providence Saint Joseph, echoed Springer’s suggestions, adding that people can have fun this weekend as long as they wear a mask.
“If you’re going to let someone in your bubble, an area like your home where you don’t wear a mask or distance, know for sure they are negative,” she said. “ … Many people who are positive have no symptoms. The reason it spreads quickly is because there’s latency to the virus.
“People need to not let their guard down and continue to be safe and think carefully of places they go — no dense, highly populated areas, stay 6 feet away from people and be diligent with hand sanitizer. … We’re E.R. doctors, taking care of hundreds of patients, and not one of our E.R. doctors has caught it. It shows you the power of using protective equipment and being smart.”
As of June 30, there have been 105,507 reported coronavirus cases — a 28% rise from the total two weeks prior — and 3,402 deaths in the county, according to the state Department of Public Health. Burbank has had 586 cases — 50 more than were reported as of June 26 — and 47 deaths.
The recent surge in cases meant an increase in hospitalizations, especially at Providence. Campen said there were days when the number of COVID-19 patients at Providence were in the single digits. The hospital now has dozens of cases.
“It’s really unfortunate,” she added. “I must say disheartening, and it’s taking a toll on the front-line providers. For the past six months, we’ve been [donning protective gear], taking care of people, and I felt we were on top of this. People understood and were cooperating to limit the spread. They were getting more comfortable. All of a sudden, the tides have turned. … Now we’re back to where we were.”
The hospital had set up tents outside to separate patients showing symptoms and those visiting the hospital in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The tents were brought down when the spread rate decreased, but they recently went back up.
“When the numbers went down, we didn’t need that set up anymore,” Campen said. “Guess what? It’s back. We’re back to our very high alert, higher staffing and higher numbers. Fortunately, Saint Joseph is well equipped.”

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