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L.A. moves to prosecute eight businesses that refuse to close amid coronavirus

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers his daily coronavirus briefing Thursday to cameras only as reporters listen via teleconference at City Hall.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

Mayor Eric Garcetti said eight businesses had been referred for criminal prosecution for failing to comply with the city’s strict Safer at Home order that prohibits nonessential work in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

“We had a smoke shop that just refused to close,” Garcetti said. “And even when police officers were there, they said, ‘Forget you’ — probably not in as nice words — ‘we’re not going to do it.’”

The city is moving to shut off the smoke shop’s power, he said.

These are some of the unusual new scenes across the Southland during the coronavirus outbreak.

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“We want to let people know that we are serious about this, that businesses that flagrantly violate this will be shut down short term and prosecuted in the medium term as well,” Garcetti said.

But the mayor added the prosecution process will take time because courts are closed.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney, said city prosecutors have received four referrals so far from the Los Angeles police and expects more related to non-essential businesses staying open. “Those referrals are currently under review,” to decide whether to charge the businesses, Wilcox said.

Los Angeles County public health officials continue to reiterate pleas for Angelenos to stay at home in an effort to stem the virus’ spread and give hospitals a chance to treat the ill without becoming overwhelmed.

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Garcetti went as far as advising the Department of Water and Power to shut off utilities to nonessential businesses violating the city’s order to close amid the pandemic.

“Slowing the spread of this virus and flattening the curve on new infections demands that we all do our part, and that’s the bottom line,” Garcetti said. “Yet still some nonessential businesses continue to operate, putting everybody at risk.”

Los Angeles County health officials Thursday confirmed 13 new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the toll to 78.

Twelve of the victims were over the age of 65 and of those, 11 had underlying health conditions, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

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The other person who died was between ages 41 and 65 and also had underlying health conditions, Ferrer said.

Los Angeles County officials also announced 534 new COVID-19 cases. Long Beach, which has its own health department, announced 14 new cases, bringing the city’s total to 153. There were 49 confirmed cases in Pasadena, which also has its own health department.

Most beaches, trails, recreation areas and other points of interest are closed, including trails in Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon Park in Los Angeles.

Under the Safer at Home order, all nonessential businesses are supposed to close.

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What stays open:

  • Pharmacies
  • Food: Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores, takeout and delivery restaurants
  • Banks
  • Gas stations
  • Laundromats/laundry services
  • Essential state and local government functions including law enforcement and offices that provide government programs and services

What is closed:

  • Bars and nightclubs
  • Entertainment venues
  • Gyms and fitness studios
  • Public events and gatherings
  • Convention centers
  • Dine-in restaurants
  • Many parks, beaches, trails, recreation areas
  • All other nonessential businesses

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