L.A. Mayor Garcetti unveils safety measures, limits public gatherings at city facilities to help slow spread of coronavirus

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Flanked by county and public health officials, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a series of new safety measures geared toward mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Garcetti’s plan places strict limits on gatherings at city-owned facilities and temporarily bans the public from accessing Los Angeles City Hall, save for public City Council meetings.

“Coronavirus is here. The question is, how steep a curve will it be? And your actions can help us to flatten that curve, literally buying us days and weeks to get us to a moment when the virus is less of a threat,” Garcetti said at a late morning news conference.

The plan to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the city essentially calls for the cancelation or postponement of all non-essential community events and group activities where at least 50 people will be present and that require close contact.

The ban includes events involving vulnerable individuals, such as anyone older than 60 years old and those who have compromised immune systems.

Similarly, during the health crisis, city facilities will also no longer host any events or conferences where 50 or more people are expected in attendance.

The mayor’s office is also developing a plan to stagger entry to public buildings — like city museums, libraries and community centers— to no more than 50 at a time. To avoid a bottleneck at the entrance, officials will work to ensure that people in line have a proper social distance of at least six feet between them, according to Garcetti.

All city-owned public buildings will also have hand-washing and sanitizing stations, and those facilities will also be cleaned regularly and thoroughly. Garcetti encouraged the general public to aid in the effort by avoiding events when sick.

Finally, Garcetti ordered all city employees to stop non-essential domestic and international travel until the emergency ends.

“I know this is an anxious time for a lot of people, but Angelenos should stay focused on preparation and protection,” Garcetti said. “We will continue doing everything we can to help guide people through this situation, and working closely with our local, state and federal partners to keep our communities safe, aware and informed.”

According to the mayor, his directive goes beyond the guidance of the state’s Department of Public Health, which is urging gatherings of at least 250 people to be postponed or canceled altogether. Even small social gatherings involving people at higher risk to develop severe illness from COVID-19 should be avoided, according to the agency.

Los Angeles County has also taken steps to slow the spread of the virus, including limiting public meetings and canceling county events that meet the state’s criteria for a large gathering, according to Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

She cited the Los Angeles County Air Show as one event that will be canceled. The annual event was scheduled to be held next weekend in Lancaster.

“I want to reiterate that these actions are not intended to create panic or fear; rather this is about mitigation and containment,” Barger said at the Thursday morning news conference.

And earlier in the day, L.A. City Council President Emeritus Herb Wesson announced that he would introduce a sweeping package of measures to deal with the outbreak.

The comprehensive measure will include a temporary moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, water and power shutoffs, and financial assistance for local small businesses and workers who have been furloughed or laid off as a result of COVID-19, according to a City Council news release.

At least 32 cases have been diagnosed in the county, including one that was fatal. The patient — a woman over the age of 60 — had traveled extensively in the past month and was in town visiting friends. She died after being treated for the virus earlier this week at Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.

L.A. County declared a public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak on March 4, a week before the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.

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