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Government Closures, Restrictions as Los Angeles County COVID-19 Cases Rise

Bars closed; restaurants must cut capacity cut in half

Published on Monday, March 16, 2020 | 8:00 am

Los Angeles County health officials have confirmed 16 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the county’s total to 69.

Huntington Hospital confirmed the hospital “is treating patients with COVID-19? but did not reveal the number of patients. The Pasadena Public Health Dept. said none of the patients are Pasadena residents.

Pasadena officials scrambled to comply with Governor Newsom’s order Sunday that all bars in California close temporarily and that dine-in restaurants reduce their capacity by half due to the coronavirus.

“These directives are new to us … we need to assess at a local level with our policymakers and leadership team then try to determine how to meet with our respective business districts,” city spokesperson Lisa Derderian said Sunday.

Derderian said City Manager Steve Mermell has been in touch with department heads, elected officials and other staff continuously over the weekend.

“Ongoing communications will continue as long as the need exists to coordinate our community response and outreach to keep everyone up to date during these unprecedented times,” Derderian said.

In Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti put into effect severe measures which went into effect at midnight Sunday, directing bars, wineries, clubs, gyms, bowling alleys, arcades and movie theaters to close until March 31.

Libraries, recreation centers and zoos are also closed, he added.

Ten of the 69 cases are “likely due to community transmission,” the county health department said.

The cases announced Sunday include one with an unidentified source of exposure, three cases stemming from recent travel, two cases of health-care workers exposed in a health-care setting, four who had close contact with a confirmed case, and five that are pending more investigation.

The 16th case was previously reported Saturday by Long Beach officials, as that city has its own health department.

“We anticipate more cases and increased community spread as more testing occurs,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s public health director. “We are asking everyone to expect more social distancing requirements as more cases are identified. Please do not call 911 to request testing for COVID-19 and please do not go to our emergency rooms unless you are seriously ill and require emergency care.

“If you have respiratory illness and want to know if you should be tested for COVID-19, it is best to call your health care provider or, if you don’t have a provider, call 2-1-1 for help finding a clinician near you,” she said. “Our healthcare providers are prepared to see more cases, but we must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to minimize strain on our healthcare system and other service providers.”

The health department will notify people who may have had close personal contact with the confirmed patients, to assess and monitor them for signs and symptoms of illness. All confirmed cases are being isolated and close contacts are quarantined, Ferrer said.

Orange County reported 17 positive patients out of 160 tested by the county’s Public Health Lab. That includes 11 whose exposure was travel-related, three spread by contact with a known case and three “community acquired.” Four of the patients were age 65 or older.

Newsom announced that six people in the state have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The number of those confirmed to have been infected in the state rose to 338 Sunday, a 14 percent increase from the prior day.

Newsom unveiled extraordinary measures at a Sunday news conference beyond just the bar closures. Restaurants were directed to reduce their capacity by roughly half, and all state residents older than 65 were told to self-quarantine in their homes.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was supportive of the latest measures, and issued a statement Sunday reiterating the governor’s message.

“Everything we do right now will determine the outcome of this crisis, and we can save lives if we stay calm, care for one another, and take forceful steps to protect our communities,” Garcetti said in the statement. “That’s why we must follow the guidelines laid out by Gov. Newsom, build on them for local needs, and put the health and safety of the most vulnerable above all else. Los Angeles has weathered enormous challenges before, and our strength and resilience are this City’s most powerful assets.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said Sunday that his office was working with state officials and other mayors and would be releasing local guidance later related to bars, restaurants, and other state announcements.

The city of Santa Monica will close the Santa Monica Pier, parking deck and affiliated businesses starting Monday as part of its local emergency proclamation.

When pressed about whether he was prepared to enforce the order, Newsom said he didn’t think it would come to that, and expressed confidence that the public, businesses and local governments would follow the directive.

The governor made it clear, however, that he has the authority to enforce the order if necessary.

The Los Angeles Police Department said the first case of COVID-19 within the department was confirmed Sunday in one of its Pacific Division supervisors. The supervisor exhibited flu-like symptoms March 5, was sent home and tested for COVID-19, which came back positive. He is improving and expects to make a full recovery, the LAPD said in a statement.

On Sunday, officials announced that a police officer at Los Angeles International Airport tested positive. County health officials were working to identify any other officers or employees who may have had prolonged or close contact with the officer. County Health was conducting thorough interviews to determine who else may be at risk, LAX said in a statement.

Two LAX workers have also tested positive for coronavirus. Both checked arriving passengers for signs of the coronavirus and worked at the same quarantine station.

County officials, meanwhile, are planning to use Dockweiler RV Park, an area on the beach just south of LAX, as a coronavirus isolation zone for people who are ordered to quarantine or isolate but are not sick enough to be hospitalized, especially those who are homeless or visiting the area with nowhere else to stay.

The area is under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County, but on Sunday the nearby city of El Segundo warned the public not to go north of 12505 Vista Del Mar, where the Youth Center and Beach Cafe are located.

About 25 RVs have been set up, with 25 more being delivered each day and a plan to have all in place by Thursday, according to a bulletin sent to El Segundo city staff.

Beginning Monday, Los Angeles County will close all of its buildings, including libraries and museums because of the coronavirus, Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger said Sunday. County hospitals and clinics will remain open, she added. It’s not yet known how long the closures will remain in effect.

All criminal and civil trials in Los Angeles County will be suspended for the rest of the month effective Monday due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to an official Los Angeles Police Department memo obtained by CNN.

The order follows a request Friday by Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile of the Los Angeles County Superior Court system, who called for a 30-day delay of all new civil jury trials. He also said criminal jury trials should be pushed back by 30 days, in cases where the defendants have agreed to the delay.

The judge made it clear Friday that he did not have the authority to order such measures.

City News Service contributed to this story

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