Widespread Closures Enacted In LA County As Coronavirus Spreads

All county building are shuttered now along with dining rooms and entertainment venues as non-essential businesses increasingly close.

LOS ANGELES, CA — Taking a cue from the city of Los Angeles, the county has now ordered the closure of bars and gyms, while also restricting restaurants to take-out or delivery service. Additionally, all Los Angeles County offices closed Monday as a precaution against the spread of the Coronavirus, and inmates with less than a month left to serve will be freed from jail. It’s the latest in a series of dramatic measures reshaping life in California during the pandemic.

Los Angeles County has confirmed 25 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the overall total to 94. COVID-19 is circulating in the community, and officials in LA have shut down schools, theaters, restaurants, bars, courts in an effort to slow down the spread of the disease. Up north in Santa Clara County, officials moved to shut down all non-essential businesses Monday in a sign that ever more stringent measures are being used to combat the pandemic. If the coronavirus can’t be stopped, there is still hope that it can be slowed to keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.

We need to do all we can to protect the public and our employees in the midst of this expanding public health crisis,” County Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger said. “Our departments will continue to provide essential services to our residents, but it is prudent to limit public access to our facilities at this time. We will continue to monitor the situation and urge the public to follow the guidance of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.”

“Our goal is to slow the transmission of COVID-19, but we can’t do it alone,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “Each and every one of us, both businesses and residents, must do our part by practicing social distancing and taking common sense infection control precautions.

“We urgently need to flatten the curve of COVID-19 in order to keep our hospitals and emergency rooms from becoming overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients,” she added. “Flattening the curve requires conscientious social distancing efforts by all our L.A. County residents during this time of crisis. Our collective efforts during this pandemic can literally save the lives of our loved ones and most vulnerable residents.”

On Sunday local health officials confirmed 16 more cases of coronavirus with 10 of them being from community transmission. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said the city would comply with California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close all bars as officials prepared to use Dockweiler RV Park south of LAX as a quarantine zone.

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 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.

The Superior Court of Los Angeles County said it will begin scaling down operations Monday with a view to establishing social distancing in all of its 38 courthouses to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

As part of the new measures, no new jurors will be summoned for any civil or criminal jury trials for the next 30 days, and he trial judge for any jury trial in session may exercise his or her discretion to either continue the trial or declare a mistrial.

City News Service

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