Moments after California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that 94% of the state’s population would move backward into the most restrictive tier of his reopening guidelines, L.A. County also announced increased measures Monday.
“If you need to be indoors, this can only be done with members of your immediate family,” County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said during a news conference.
“Higher risk individuals should try — when possible — to eat by themselves,” she continued, before sharing data that showed more than 6 million of L.A. County’s 10 million residents fell into the higher risk category.
“I’d like to hope we don’t go back down,” said Ferrer when asked about extreme measures, “certainly not safer-at-home orders.” She noted that in July the county was in dire straits and “we did not go back down to a safer-at-home order.”
“We need to get back to what we know works,” she encouraged Angelenos. “We each have to do our best. And at this point, our best needs to be really, really good.”
“If we don’t get it back under control,” she warned, “we have no choice to look at restrictions where we would limit…hours of operations [among businesses].”
Asked what recommendations would be made to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Ferrer said, “Of course we’re going to put recommendations before the board about what we’re going to do if we cannot get this back under control, but we still have some days before us where we can make a change.”
But, if the healthcare system begins to become overwhelmed, Ferrer said, “we’d have to look at going back to safer at home.”
“I don’t see any situation where we’d have to go back to safer at home unless we see an overwhelm of the hospital system,” she said. “But we have to leave it on the table.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas reiterated today that the county will be discussing the possibility of additional restrictions this week, including a possible curfew for business operations or other restrictions on operating hours.
“While we must not jump to any conclusions before the Board of Supervisors has had time to fully consider all options and listen to input from the public, I trust we will also be prioritizing the need to safely keep the economy open,” he said. “We must also look for structural ways to remind everyone that the safest place to be right now is at home. Potential options could include instituting a curfew, so businesses do not have to close again, but would instead have limited hours for essential activities.”
Supervisor Janice Hahn echoed that possibility, particularly for restaurants.
“The fact of the matter is, this is a dire warning to all of us. It’s an alarm that the cases have spiked so dramatically,” Hahn told KNX Newsradio on Monday. “The suggestion is that we ask our businesses, our restaurants, to close maybe by 10 p.m. so that they don’t essentially become bars where people are just sitting around drinking, laughing and talking without their masks on. So it’s not a general public curfew for everybody.”
Newsom, in his presentation earlier, announced that the state was implementing previously-announced emergency plans to surge medical resources in anticipation of a surge in hospitalizations. The first region to receive this support would be hard-hit Imperial County, he said.
The state has been working in partnership with hospitals, clinics and physicians on the COVID-19 response, said a statement from the governor’s office. To support California’s health care delivery system, the state has an additional 1,872 beds available at alternate care sites outside of the system that can be made available quickly if needed to respond to a surge in cases.
If another shutdown were in the offing, Ferrer said L.A. County would progress toward it thusly:
1. First, try to do better at adhering to current restrictions
2. Enact stronger measures to keep people from intermingling
3. A “short duration” safer at home order
At hospitals, “we’ve seen a steady increase,” she observed. L.A. County’s COVID-19 dashboard indicated a rise of about 33% in virus-related patients since late October. “There is no moving forward until we get this pandemic back under control.”
Accordingly, L.A. residents must adhere strictly to the current protocols, said Ferrer.
“It is clear that we are at a very dangerous point,” she warned. “To say many lives are at risk is not an exaggeration.”
Those with underlying health conditions are not the only residents who need to pay attention. The case rate for people aged 18-29 has more than doubled, Ferrer said. And they are infecting others. “Young people are spreading the virus with disastrous results for the elderly,” she said.
Even with the weekend reporting lag, the county reported 2,795 new cases Monday. That’s after recording about 3,700 new infections on Saturday and another 3,000 or so on Sunday. Those numbers are triple the numbers L.A. County reported in the last few days of October.
“We have not reported new cases like this since July,” said Ferrer.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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