LOS ANGELES - As a plea to get Angelenos to stay home and avoid gatherings as they ring in the new year, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health tweeted every ten minutes on Thursday as a somber reminder that the coronavirus crisis has reached a point where one person dies every ten minutes in California’s most populous county.
The message in the tweets was clear: "Slow the spread. Save a life."
"Every 10 minutes, someone dies of COVID-19 in LA County. People who were loved and will be missed. Until we slow the spread, the next person to tragically pass away could be someone you know," the department tweeted.
Los Angeles is now considered the epicenter of the virus in the United States.
"Nobody should be gathering at a big party, and nobody should be gathering in a small party, as well," Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday night. "These are the ways that this virus will spread to your loved ones. Some who won't be taken from us will spread to others and those people will be taken from us. It's all it takes to set off a dangerous and often deadly chain of events."
The city's traditional New Year's Eve gathering at Grand Park downtown has been scrubbed to prevent crowds from gathering. Instead the celebration is shifting to an online and televised format, with a musical lineup curated by Grammy-nominated DJ/producer Steve Aoki. The event will be streamed on Grand Park's YouTube channel and Facebook page, and broadcast nationally on Fuse TV.
The Santa Monica Pier has been closed for the weekend in another effort to prevent people from gathering. It'll remain closed until early Monday morning, and Santa Monica officials said city code enforcement officers will be on the streets to crack down on violators of health orders.
Earlier this week, residents in Central and Southern California learned strict lockdown orders would be extended for at least another 21 days as cases continue to surge, hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients, and many healthcare workers are at their breaking point.
After learning a regional stay-at-home order was extended, the California governor announced on Wednesday a new strain of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom, which is believed to be more contagious, was detected in Southern California.
The news was revealed during Gov. Gavin Newsom’s virtual conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infection disease expert.
Health officials later revealed the patient was located in San Diego County.
Moments after learning the nation’s known second case of the variant, LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer revealed the county has now surpassed 10,000 deaths as the result of COVID-19.
"The terrible reality is that the average number of people dying each day from COVID-19 illness ... is about 150 people a day, and this is almost as high as the average number of people dying each day from every other cause, which is about 170 people," Dr. Ferrer said.
The county reported 274 new COVID deaths on Wednesday. Although a large number of those were attributed to a backlog in reporting from the holiday weekend, it still marked the highest total reported in a single day since the pandemic began.
FOX 11's Hailey Winslow and CNS contributed to this report.