Coronavirus: Los Angeles County ‘with all certainty’ will extend stay-at-home order for three months

Days after California began easing some restrictions, county public health director warns distancing order could remain through July

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 12 May 2020 16:13
Gavin Newsom moves California towards opening up

Los Angeles County’s stay-at-home order is likely to continue through July to combat the spread of coronavirus, according to the county’s health director.

Amid debate over extending the county’s eviction moratorium, public health director Barbara Ferrer told the county’s Board of Supervisors that officials are eyeing “with all certainty” an extension of stay-at-home efforts for another three months, The Los Angeles Times reports.

She said the county’s “hope is that by using the data, we’d be able to slowly lift restrictions over the next three months” but easing those restrictions depends on the likelihood of widespread testing.

The county has recorded more than 32,000 cases of Covid-19, including at least 1,569 deaths, as of 11 May, as California slowly began to emerge from pandemic closures with restrictive reopenings for some parts of the most populous state in the US.

Deaths in the county account for roughly half of the state’s death toll.

Over the weekend, the state allowed some retailers to offer curbside and delivery options, and the county allowed parks, hiking trails and golf courses to reopen with physical distancing and mask requirements.

Los Angeles beaches are also set to reopen this week in limited capacity following two months of closure.

Dr Ferrer’s warnings followed US Senate testimony from White House health official Dr Anthony Fauci, who cautioned that early reopenings amid the public health crisis could risk a spike in new cases.

Experts say that central to state and local governments giving businesses and residents a greenlight are widespread testing and contact tracing, along with a clear 14-day decline in cases.

Dr Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that if local governments ”jump over those various checkpoints” without accompanying healthcare capacity, those areas could see spikes ”that might turn into outbreaks” that “you may not be able to control”.

He added that those outbreaks “will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided, but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery”.

But states now are struggling to meet criteria established by the White House while also satisfying pressure from residents and businesses to get back to a “normal” despite inconsistent data and no clear direction for rolling back reopening efforts if there are upticks in cases and hospitalisations.

“It’s safer to stay at home,” Dr Ferrer said. “Covid-19 has not changed.”

On Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned residents that if the stay-at-home order is lifted before health officials have declared it safe to so, 95 per cent of the county could by infected by August.

Pew polls have found that a majority of Americans support those restrictions, though experts also warn that “quarantine fatigue” coupled with warming weather across most of the US could drive infections as people move outdoors without proper distancing efforts in place.

The mayor told CNN that Dr Ferrer’s warning won’t mean that “we’ll stay exactly as we are for three more months.”

“That’s not the case,” he said. “I think she was saying we’re not going to fully reopen Los Angeles or anywhere in America without any protections or health orders in the next three months. I think it’s going to be longer than three months. We’re not moving past Covid-19. We’re learning to live with it.”

The county’s current order is in place through 15 May.

“There’s no radical changes in the next week coming,” Mayor Garcetti told CNN. “That doesn’t mean three weeks from now, six weeks from now, two months from now, we won’t continuously edit that order and make sure we open up safely as much as we can, and if it gets dangerous, we may need to step back at times as well. I’ve always told people the hard truths.”

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