(Natural News) A July 1 protest in Los Angeles drew thousands of people after California Gov. Gavin Newsom discouraged residents from holding Fourth of July gatherings with anyone outside of their immediate household. The governor made the order in response to the increasing number of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the state.
Newsom issued an executive order on July 1 that forbade large gatherings, closed bars and required restaurants and museums to shift to outdoor operations in 19 counties.
“One of the areas of biggest concern, as it relates to the spread of COVID-19 in this state, remains family gatherings,” Newsom said. The governor also urged residents Wednesday to avoid celebrations with others outside their household.
Hours after Newsom announced the order, protesters gathered in large numbers outside City Hall and the Hall of Justice in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) published a photo showing protesters standing shoulder to shoulder.
The LAPD has not issued permits for mass gatherings since March 3. Back then, Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an executive order forbidding gatherings because of the pandemic. Despite the existing order, police did not intervene to break up the protest, which itself is part of a larger wave of demonstrations in response to the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.
Large gatherings, celebrations contributed to California’s growing caseload
Newsom’s order comes after health officials in the state pointed to crowded situations as possible flashpoints for the spread of the coronavirus.
“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,” said Los Angeles County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer in a press briefing. “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.”
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger believes that the current spike in cases in the area was tied to the protests.
“I definitely think there’s a direct correlation between the protesters and the spike,” Barger told CBS. “I mean, obviously, the opening up probably threw something into it.” She added that the size of the crowds made contact tracing for the coronavirus almost impossible.
Aside from the protests, state health officials are now also looking at family gatherings – especially those that occur around holidays – as part of the reason why California is seeing a surge in cases. According to these officials, there are signs that these gatherings on Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day fueled outbreaks in parts of the state.
California currently has 19 counties in its watch list for worrisome COVID-19 trends. Of these, family gatherings were cited as factors for outbreaks in Glenn, Sacramento, Solano and Stanislaus counties. Gatherings, in general, were listed among causes in Orange, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Joaquin and Ventura counties.
Despite the risks posed by these gatherings, state officials admit that it will be hard to police them.
“You have 40 million people in the state of California, and if 40 million people turn their back on these guidelines and common sense, that is not something we can enforce,” Newsom admitted. “No one is naive about that.”
In light of this, some health officials are instead pleading for anyone celebrating Independence Day to do so safely – wear masks and observe social distancing.
“We know people are going to be doing it anyway,” said Sacramento County public health department spokeswoman Janna Haynes. “So do it outdoors, wear face coverings, physically distance, wash hands. And if anyone is sick, don’t attend the gathering.”
As of press time, California has reported 240,195 cases and 6,163 deaths from the coronavirus.
Learn more about how the coronavirus is affecting Fourth of July celebrations at Pandemic.news.