Los Angeles County Public Health officials urged residents on Christmas Eve to avoid attending indoor religious services during the holiday season, nearly a week after they reversed the countywide ban on indoor practices.
“No matter what a superior court judge says and given what’s happening now, it is simply too risky to gather indoors with other people who do not live with you,” read a department statement. “Public Health urges you to continue to more safely worship as you have during the pandemic by attending remotely via streaming service or at outdoor services only.”
On Saturday, the county modified its health officer order to reflect that people can now congregate indoors and outdoors at places of worship after monthslong closures of indoor services, although they still “strongly” recommended outdoor or remote practices. Locations must, of course, implement a series of safety measures such as require a minimum of 6 feet between persons from different households.
The updated order came after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Dec. 17 to uphold the right of indoor worshipping following a Pasadena church’s legal battle challenging California’s restrictions related to places of worship.
While congregations, including some in the Santa Clarita Valley, have said it is their right to gather and can do so safely, Public Health officials said the required modifications only help reduce the risk but do not eliminate it, citing people can spread the virus before presenting symptoms when indoors and singing, talking loud or shouting.
“Attending an indoor service will result in transmission of COVID-19 and additional hospitalizations that the healthcare system cannot handle at this time,” read the statement. “The reason is that there is (a) significant amount of community transmission throughout the county.”
Court rulings and Public Health’s statement comes as the county has seen about 14,000 of its 10 million residents test positive every day or 1 in 5 people. Hospitals are admitting an average of 1,000 people each day.
On Wednesday, the county reported its highest, one-day death toll of 145 and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital reported its highest tally of 85 patients on Thursday. The Southern California region’s intensive care unit capacity remained at 0% Thursday.