‘A test is not a passport to party’: Mayor Eric Garcetti says gatherings remain prohibited in LA

LOS ANGELES - Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday reminded the public that gatherings of any size, outside of those in your immediate household, remain prohibited in Los Angeles.

Fears of the virus spreading among young people will be heightened over the weekend, when a heat wave drives up temperatures, likely leading to large crowds at Southland beaches.

Garcetti urged residents Friday evening to continue taking precautions, like avoiding crowded places, confined spaces and close contact with others.

"Gatherings large and small are a major source of spread," the mayor said.

Health officials have acknowledged the problem of quarantine fatigue, noting that residents are anxious to get back to normal life and may see the reopening of businesses across the county as a sign the virus is disappearing — leading to a lack of social distancing and a failure to wear face coverings.

Garcetti said that there has been an increase in the number of residents tested for the virus, stating that many people believe that if they get tested and receive a negative result, they are free to hang out with friends as they please.

"A test is not a passport to party," said Garcetti, as he explained that a negative test today means doesn't mean you can't get infected tomorrow.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 1.27 million people in Los Angeles County have been tested for COVID-19, with about 9% testing positive. The average daily positivity rate over the past seven days, however, was at 10% as of Friday. That number is up from the 8.4% rate of about a week ago, but slightly below the 11.6% rate it reached earlier this week.

Also Friday, the number of people hospitalized in the county due to the virus was 1,995, with 26% of those people in intensive-care units. That figure is down from Thursday's report of 2,037, but hospitalizations over the past week have been running well above the levels of a month ago, when the number hovered between 1,350 and 1,450.

Garcetti, as well as county health officials, warned earlier in the week that if current COVID-19 infection trends don't reverse, the area could again find itself facing tougher stay-at-home orders to slow the virus' spread.

The mayor recently introduced a new tool that breaks down the COVID-19 risk into four categories: red, orange, yellow, and green.

According to Garcetti, "Red" means residents should stay home, "Orange" indicates that the threat of COVID-19 in Los Angeles is "extremely high" and residents should take precautions and assume everyone around them is infectious. "Yellow" means the city is successfully flattening the curve and "Green" means COVID-19 is mostly contained and presents a low risk in the city.

On Friday, Garcetti noted that the virus threat level in Los Angeles was "Orange" and residents should "minimize all contact" with others. According to Garcetti's scale, the city is one threat level away from having to reinforce stay-at-home orders.

Los Angeles County on Friday reported 2,667 new cases of COVID-19 as well as 51 additional deaths. The county's totals now stand at 127,358 cases and 3,738 deaths.