Los Angeles Defends Soft Stay-Home Order Despite Case Spike

Los Angeles, which imposed another stay-home order starting Monday, said the measures are less stringent than those issued in March despite a sudden case surge because face-wearing and social distancing have proven effective.

The new measures, which prohibit most gatherings but don’t require retailers to shut down, will last for three weeks. Los Angeles has more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other U.S. county, with a five-day average of more than 4,500 new cases.

“In March and April, we didn’t know as much as we know now,” Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said in a press call Saturday. “We do know that if you wear face covering, and you keep your distance and you do good infection control, it offers a lot of protection.”

The health order was met with mixed reactions on Twitter. Some said that the measures didn’t go far enough, while others opposed further restrictions as earlier ones have already hit the economy hard.

Ferrer cautioned on Saturday that the county may weigh other options if the situation gets worse, and people’s behavior over the Thanksgiving weekend is a “big unknown.”

Los Angeles county -- the most populous in the U.S. -- reported 19 new deaths Saturday, bringing its fatalities to 7,623. Current hospitalizations are 1,951 and the county is at about 75% capacity for hospital beds.

About one in 145 people in the county has been infected with Covid-19, compared with one in 880 two months ago, Eric Garcetti, mayor of the city of Los Angeles, said in a tweet Friday. “We have to act now to slow the spread,” he said.

The stay-home order came just two days after the county of 10 million banned outdoor dining after cases surged. Friday’s announcement will restrict both public and private gatherings with others who aren’t in the same households. Exceptions were made for church services and protests.

For public areas, the county will limit what it deems as non-essential retail, including stores in indoor malls, to just 20% of capacity. The same cap will apply to personal care services and libraries. For essential retail, such as grocery stores, the capacity will be restricted to 35%, and while outdoor gyms, museums and zoos will be able to fill half the occupancy.

While beaches and hiking trails were shut after large groups gathered in those areas after the previous stay-home order -- its version of a lockdown -- these will now stay open, along with golf courses, tennis courts, pools and other community areas. Even mini-golf, batting cages and go-kart racing facilities that operate outdoors will be allowed to run at half their capacity.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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