While many parts of California are looking to take the first steps toward lifting coronavirus business restrictions later this week, Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday cautioned that rules will stay in place longer in Los Angeles, the epicenter of the state’s outbreak.
The mayor’s address comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced the state is entering a new phase of its plan to restart the economy: Retail stores and other low-risk businesses can reopen to provide curbside pickup by the end of this week, provided safety measures are in place.
But Garcetti noted that Newsom “isn’t talking to all of us in exactly the same way,” and some places will be slower to adopt new rules, including Los Angeles County.
“I will reopen our city with careful consideration, guided by the advice of public health professionals,” he said. “What we should all ready ourselves for, is the new normal, no matter what is open or closed.”
The mayor warned that even as certain things reopen, social distancing will remain key. People will still need to wear masks and stay 6 feet away from each other in public spaces.
“We won’t be rushing back to something that we once knew for some time,” he said. “It’s going to be tough for a while. This is hard. This hurts. But this is our new normal.”
The county’s top public health official, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, last week said that continued social distancing in especially important considering COVID-19 is expected to resurge in fall, simultaneous to flu season.
Officials plan to keep all rules under L.A. County’s stay-home order in place until at least May 15, which is when Garcetti says we’ll have better evidence on whether or not we’re leveling the curve. But leaders have signaled some restrictions may be lifted after that — likely beginning at retail businesses and open spaces such as parks and trails.
L.A. County has yet to see number of cases, fatalities decline
The outbreak still does not appear to have peaked in L.A. County, where the number of new cases and fatalities reported each day are often among the highest since tracking began. Over the past week, an average of 854 new cases and 46 more deaths were reported each day.
As of Monday, more than 26,200 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed countywide, resulting in 1,256 deaths.
Both figures are around half the statewide totals of some 54,900 cases and 2,254 deaths reported. Meanwhile, L.A. County makes up only about a quarter the state’s population.
In the city of L.A., 225 new cases were reported Monday for a total of 12,525.
Garcetti says he’s concerned about the “human consequences” of reopening too soon.
“What I like about what the governor has done is he hasn’t said, ‘All of California must do this.’ He said, ‘California can do this,’” the mayor said. “Now it’s up to counties to figure out where they’re at.”
2 new testing sites added in L.A.
Officials are continuing to increase testing capacity after Garcetti opened appointments to everyone in the county last week, and two new drive-thru locations will open Wednesday at shut-down malls, Garcetti said.
The site at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza will be the fifth in South L.A., while another at the Northridge Fashion Center will be the San Fernando Valley’s fourth, according to the mayor.
The city-run sites will also be extending their hours until 5 p.m. to help meet demand. As of Monday, the county had the ability to test 18,500 people a day, Garcetti said.
Appointments can be scheduled by visiting coronavirus.lacity.org/testing or calling 213-978-1028 during normal business hours.
Along with the county, the city is also working to identify cases within nursing and assisted-living homes. More than 7,100 residents and staff have been testing within the facilities since April 8, Garcetti said.
To further those efforts, the city is requiring notices be hand-delivered to each home at least once a month detailing when testing will next be available.
“We know relatives and others that have wanted tests,” Garcetti said. “These notices will ensure that they happen.”
Correction: This post has been updated to correct a statement about L.A. County’s size relative to the population of California.