Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged Angelenos to make their own face masks to wear in public on Wednesday, after Gov. Gavin Newsom and county health officials stopped short of issuing similar guidance.
Garcetti also announced that two dozen farmers markets have been given the green light to reopen, while city prosecutors are charging eight businesses that flouted rules under the countywide “safer at home” order.
The mayor had suspended farmers markets Monday, saying they could reopen once they implemented social distancing plans. A list of those that have been approved can be found at streetsla.lacity.org/covid.
Garcetti also renewed his threat to cut water and power services for any non-essential business that remains open.
“This is serious and we can not allow violations to continue,” he said.
Garcetti declined to name or provide details on those being prosecuted, but he did note that the charges are a misdemeanor. The city attorney’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Local cases increase amid expanded testing
Wednesday’s briefing comes after confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county jumped 17% from the day before, topping 3,500 with a death toll of 65. Both the number of cases and deaths in the county have doubled over the past four days, Garcetti said.
In the city of L.A., there were 194 new cases reported Wednesday for a total of 1,580. Garcetti said the city remains two weeks behind New York in cases per capita, and 11 days behind in deaths.
The steep increase in cases also comes as the city has ramped up testing, from about 1,000 people per day last week to 2,000 per day as of Wednesday, according to the mayor.
About 12,000 Angelenos had been tested as of Wednesday, and Garcetti said he hopes to increase that number to 30,000 by next week. The goal doesn’t account for federal assistance on testing, “which we badly need and are awaiting,” he said.
The city now has nine drive-thru testing centers, as well as more than a dozen locations specifically serving seniors and the homeless, Garcetti said.
Face masks recommended in public
As more evidence emerges that people without symptoms are spreading the virus, the mayor said all Angelenos should use a facial covering when they go out to perform essential tasks or socialize with others.
But the masks should be homemade — don’t buy anything medical-grade when hospitals are in short supply, Garcetti said.
“Research shows even a bandana tucked in can have an effect of slowing down droplets’ spread,” he said. “But these face coverings are only effective, of course, with safe physical distancing — so this is not an excuse to get closer.”
Garcetti even pulled a mask out of his pocket to model, saying, “This’ll be the look.”
The city is also working with local apparel companies to produce non-medical masks for essential workers like grocery clerks and pharmacy technicians through the L.A. Protects initiative.
So far, 400 garment manufacturers have signed up and 147 have been approved for participation, Garcetti said.
He said the city has the capacity to make more than 2 million cloth face coverings per week, which L.A. Protects will help distribute.
Architecture, design and manufacturing firms are also working to use 3D printing to make medical equipment. The L.A. Library announced it’s participating in that effort, with face shield designs ready to print that it plans to produce in bulk.