Pasadena reported its highest-ever single-day rise in coronavirus cases on Thursday, Dec. 30, according to Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, but the city’s Public Health Officer confirmed that the city’s annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game would likely return Saturday.
Pasadena reported 477 confirmed and 16 probable COVID-19 cases Thursday, almost double the previous one-day high of 253 reported on Jan. 5, according to city spokeswoman Lisa Derderian.
“And we know that this is a fraction of the actual cases that are out there because people are having difficulty getting access to PCR testing and any of the home test people are doing at home do not get reported to us,” Goh said during an interview, during which she also joined county officials in advising people with serious underlying physical conditions or other health risks to avoid the city’s Jan. 1 events or other large gatherings.
Pasadena, which operates its own health department independent from Los Angeles County’s, has posted 15,913 cases since the pandemic began, as well as 371 deaths.
“We’re working under health orders that were issued at the end of October. We understand we’re in a COVID surge and that there could be a spread of COVID. But, we’re asking people to take individual responsibility,” Tournament of Roses President David Eads said Thursday.
The statements came minutes before Kaiser Permanente officials opted to remove 20 front-line medical heroes as float riders and “out-walkers” from its float scheduled for Saturday’s march down Colorado Boulevard. The float will roll on without them.
“Taking into consideration that our Southern California region is experiencing a 26% COVID-19 positivity rate, and Los Angeles County currently has a 17.6% positivity rate and in consultation with our infectious disease experts, we have decided to continue to have our “A Healthier Future” float participate in the Tournament of Roses Parade,” a news release said. “We must prioritize the health and safety of our front-line medical staff and ensure we are able to treat patients during this recent surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.”
Los Angeles County, meanwhile, reported 20,198 new cases on Thursday, Dec. 30, a “staggering” total coupled with 24 deaths — representing that “we are, in fact, experiencing the worst of a surge at the moment,” said the county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer.
The increasing counts are believed to be driven by the more transmissible coronavirus variant omicron — being passed along at holiday gatherings — and a fully open economy, Goh said.
Though there is evidence that omicron is less severe than its predecessors, Goh said it’s really too early to tell. “Because hospitalizations and deaths occur a few weeks after we see steep increases in cases.”
Last year, the Tournament of Roses opted to cancel the parade. The Rose Bowl football game was moved to Texas.
“As you remember, everything surged and we didn’t have vaccines yet. So everything got so bad that by November a lot of things across the state were closed by the state,” including indoor dining, outdoor dining and large events, Goh said. “We’re in a different place now though, And it’s because of vaccines.”
As a result, Tournament of Roses leaders have reiterated many times this month Pasadena that will see a Rose Parade this New Year’s Day — but that officials would continue to monitor daily statistics and other developments.
On Thursday, the Tournament echoed those sentiments again, acknowledging the officials from his team met with Pasadena Health Department leaders this week.
Eads noted the current situation has been on the radar of the Tournament for some time because planning for this year’s parade started in February. A feasibility study by USC Keck School of Medicine was conducted and, Eads said, “all of our planning has been based on these scenarios.”
“Again, if there’s a new health order that requires seating changes, we’ll be making those changes, but so far, that’s not required,” Eads added. “We’re trying to maintain as much flexibility as possible as we head into parade day.”
People who purchase tickets to watch the parade from grandstands along the route are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from within 72 hours of a scheduled event. Because the city is unable to enforce mega event standards for non-ticketed patrons, those witnessing the parade further down the route will not have to provide proof of anything. Officials have urged all attendees to wear facemasks.
Both Goh and Los Angeles County Public Health Officer Barbara Ferrer commended the Tournament on Thursday for instituting guidelines that follow regional and state protocols.
“So I trust the Pasadena team to do a really good job. I also trust individual people to assess their own risk,” Ferrer said, encouraging people who have serious underlying health conditions, are immunocompromised, or older to avoid a crowded event this year. “Even if it’s outdoors and lots of precautions are being taken.”
Goh agreed and noted masking and physical distancing are also “rich mitigation measures” that should be utilized especially during this year’s parade.
“In addition,” Goh added, “they should assess the risk of the people around them as they get together with friends and family.”
Huntington Hospital officials echoed the sentiment this week when they noted the San Gabriel Valley’s sole Level II trauma center is anticipating an influx of patients as Pasadena awaits a staggering number of visitors coming into town.
“The combination of the highly contagious Omicron variant with the desire for people to gather during the holidays is making our emergency care more complicated this year,” said Dr. Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease specialist for Huntington Hospital.
As the only emergency room in Pasadena, Huntington’s emergency department volume — along with wait times — are expected to rise along with growing caseloads.
“We are also seeing an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations (primarily unvaccinated) and we have unprecedented staffing pressures that have impacted hospitals nationwide,” Shriner said. In response, staff are preparing for a very busy January and setting up temporary tents to allow more distancing between those awaiting treatment.
“I understand people have ‘pandemic fatigue’ but we have to continue with our infection prevention measures: get vaccinated and boosted, wear a mask (surgical or K95 preferred), maintain social distancing, skip the large indoor parties and events, and wash your hands often,” Shriner added. “And if you are experiencing symptoms, please get tested and follow CDC’s guidelines.”
Goh encouraged everybody who is eligible to get a vaccine that’s proven to be effective in preventing coronavirus’ most severe symptoms.
But getting a booster doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of exposure during an outdoor mega event, Goh said. “And so people who are concerned about getting infected with COVID should not go, because they are putting themselves at risk by being around other people.”
Some Rose-related events were canceled this year, including public float decorating and the Lawry’s Beef Bowl, during which the Rose Bowl teams dine at the Beverly Hills prime rib restaurant, citing coronavirus concerns. Lawry’s will be packaging and delivering takeout meals for the players instead.
“We’re urging everybody to be fully vaccinated if you are eligible and be responsible as you move in and about the city, including on New Year’s Day,” said Mayor Victor Gordo, who will ride in an automobile during the parade.
Councilman Tyron Hampton, who said he’s excited to welcome the return of the Rose Parade to Pasadena, had a similar message for those weary to venture out to catch a glimpse of the fantastic floats, Rose Queen Nadia Chung and Grand Marshal LeVar Burton.
“We had a tumultuous 2021 and we look forward to putting all of that behind moving forward in 2022,” Hampton said in an interview Thursday. “I want to remind everybody participating and attending to be responsible, wear your mask and take all of the precautions that CDC require
“If you don’t feel comfortable,” Hampton added, “then watch it on TV.”