As the number of coronavirus cases continued to accelerate in Los Angeles and elsewhere, Mayor Eric Garcetti acknowledged Wednesday that the “safer at home” order could be extended through mid-May.
Currently, the city and county order is scheduled to expire on April 19.
But in a recent interview with Business Insider, Garcetti said it could last two months — but possibly longer.
Asked about the comment at a news conference on Wednesday evening, the mayor spoke frankly with reporters, offering a grim assessment of the situation.
“Folks who think we’re gonna be done in a couple weeks, its simply not that case anywhere,” he said.
Garcetti pointed to Wuhan, China, once the center of the epidemic, where severe restrictions were placed on residents back in January to slow the spread of COVID-19.
That’s the only place that is lifting lockdown orders, and that won’t fully happen until next month, according to the mayor. He estimated the time period by then will have been around 3 1/2 months.
“They were the first city, they didn’t know to start things early, we did,” Garcetti said. “It could be less than that, but it is difficult for me to see any scenario in which this is less than a couple months.”
Such restrictions are necessary, however, to slow the spread of the virus so that local hospitals aren’t overwhelmed by patients — something that is threatening hard-hit New York City. The novel coronavirus has rapidly spread through the city that never sleeps, infecting thousands of people each day.
Now considered the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., New York has seen over 20,000 cases and 280 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the city’s public health agency. Nearly 4,000 patients have been hospitalized.
The latest figures from the L.A. County Department of Public Health showed there were 138 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 799. Thirteen people have died.
Garcetti emphasized that the data points to Los Angeles being about “six to 12 days” behind New York, depending on the effectiveness of social distancing measures.
He urged people to prepare to stay at home and to continue following the “safer at home” orders implemented by the city last week.
“This is an all hands on deck moment,” he said. “We have not seen the darkest days, but we will march forward, and we will march forward together.”
To slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, city and county officials have been urging residents to stay home and only go out for essential activities, like buying groceries and medicine, and getting exercise in their own neighborhoods. Individuals are actively encouraged to maintain a safe distance of six feet from others.
Nonessentials businesses have been forced to close, and many workers have been laid off or had their hours reduced as a result.
While measures like the federal stimulus package — or economic survival package, as Garcetti called it — aim to assist those impacted, the city has also relaxed some local regulations to help.
Under the newest measure, announced Wednesday, the city won’t cite or tow vehicles with expired registrations, Garcetti said.
Additionally, motorists with expired driver’s license will not get ticketed if pulled over by the Los Angeles Police Department.
The mayor explained those measures are meant to encourage residents to stay in their homes — as opposed to going out to visiting their local DMV branch — and will help them save much-needed money during this difficult economic time.
Those are in stark contrast to the actions Garcetti announced at Tuesday’s briefing, when he said that nonessential businesses that didn’t comply with the “safer at home” order will have their water and power turned off.
“We’re all safer at home, and that’s not a suggestion — it is the law,” Garcetti said in a news release. “Refusing to follow it isn’t brave or funny — it’s stupid and could wind up killing you or someone else. Angelenos are doing an extraordinary job of staying in their homes, and we won’t tolerate the selfish behavior of a few who unnecessarily put our community at risk.”
KTLA’s Sareen Habeshian contributed to this story.