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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA Finals coincided with a spike in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County, and it’s “highly likely” watch parties held by Lakers fans and the victory celebration outside of Staples Center contributed to the spike, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said.
That has fueled concerns of another potential spike in COVID-19 transmission rates because the Los Angeles Dodgers are one victory away from winning their first World Series title in 32 years.
The Dodgers lead the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 will be played Tuesday and if the Dodgers lose, the teams will play Game 7 on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas.
“As fans continue to watch and celebrate the mighty LA sport teams, we are mindful that if individuals are not adhering to the health officer order requirements of distancing, infection control and masking, cases will continue to rise which, unfortunately, not only leads to increased illness and deaths, but also slows down our recovery journey,’’ the agency said Monday in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.
Since early October, the average number of new daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County has increased to 1,200 a day from 900 a day.
“It is impossible to determine the exact exposures that contributed to this increase,’’ the agency said. “However, it is highly likely that gatherings to watch and/or celebrate the Lakers, along with any other gatherings that occurred 2-3 weeks ago where people weren’t wearing face coverings and were in close contact with each other, contributed to the rise in LA County cases.’’
Fans gather in downtown Los Angeles after the Lakers won the championship over the Miami Heat on Oct. 11. (Photo: Harrison Hill, USA TODAY)
More than 1,000 revelers swarmed streets outside Staples Center on Oct. 11 following the Lakers’ title-clinching victory over the Miami Heat. The Los Angeles Police Department said it arrested 76 people during the Lakers’ downtown celebration.
The Dodgers have held drive-in events with a capacity of about 1,000 cars this postseason after Major League Baseball opted for neutral sites for the majority of the playoffs. Security has enforced social distancing during the events, with cars parked in adjoining parking lots and the game telecast projected on 60-foot screens.
A parking space between each car is left empty and people are asked to stay in their cars unless they need to use the bathroom. There are no concessions and alcohol is prohibited.
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