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California

L.A. officials urge residents to avoid shopping, stay indoors this week as coronavirus deaths spike again

As coronavirus cases and deaths continue to spike across Los Angeles County, health officials Monday urged residents to stay home this week, to limit time spent outside and to even avoid shopping if possible to slow the spread of the virus.

“If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether,” said public health department Director Barbara Ferrer.

The urgent guidance comes as 900 people are hospitalized, and the number of confirmed cases in the county tops 6,000. Officials have desperately tried to slow the spread of the virus through unprecedented social distancing rules that closed most parks and beaches as well as nonessential businesses. But as the number of infected individuals continues to rise, officials’ warnings to stay home have persisted.

“We cannot underestimate COVID-19, a virus that knows no boundaries, infects people of all ages, and can cause significant illness and death, particularly among people who are elderly or who have underlying serious health conditions,” Ferrer said.

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If people do need to leave their homes for urgent matters, she added, “please make sure to cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face covering if you will be around others, maintain a distance of at least six feet from everyone else and frequently wash your hands.”

Los Angeles County officials Monday confirmed 420 new coronavirus cases in the county, bringing the total to at least 6,360.

Ferrer said there were 15 new coronavirus-linked deaths, bringing the county’s total to 147. Twelve of the people who died were older than 65, and seven of them had underlying health conditions. The three others were between 41 and 65.

The effort to test as many residents as possible continues across the county.

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About 52,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in L.A. County, officials said — a number that accounts for 40% of all tests administered in California.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday evening that any Los Angeles County resident who has symptoms and wants to be tested for the coronavirus can now apply online. Testing was previously limited to vulnerable populations, including those 65 and older, and those with compromised immune systems.

Thanks to expanded testing capacity through city and county partnerships, there are no longer limits to who can be tested at the 13 testing sites across the county, seven of which are in the city of L.A., Garcetti said.

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“Now that doesn’t mean we’ll have a test for everybody tomorrow,” he said, “but it means that our capacity is now greater than the number that we are getting through the requirements that we had.”

Officials are investigating 109 institutional settings where there has been at least one coronavirus case, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, shelters, treatment centers and supportive living correctional facilities. There are 512 cases in such spaces, Ferrer said, with about half of those among residents and the rest among staff.

Like other officials in California, Ferrer advised people to wear face masks when in public, but she cautioned that the masks do not necessarily keep individuals from becoming ill. Instead, they can prevent the spread of the virus from those who might be infected.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, the L.A. County Department of Health Services director, said this week is critical in understanding the trajectory of the virus. While modeling can’t predict an exact peak, an analysis of the numbers can help officials anticipate what may come, she said.

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Los Angeles on Monday saw the smallest increase in new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in three weeks. Garcetti said that the city saw a 7% increase, its first single-digit increase since March 14.

“But before we get too cocky, before we say ‘Oh, that’s great’ and ‘We can head out,’ remember what Dr. Ferrer said: This is a critical week,’” Garcetti said.

Garcetti cautioned that Mondays often bring lower numbers because not as many people are working on Sundays and fewer tests are delivered.

During Garcetti’s evening news briefing, LAPD Police Chief Michel Moore said officers have filed 37 complaints against individuals who have not complied with stay-at-home orders. Those complaints will lead to fines and criminal prosecutions, Moore said.

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Across the state, the total number of confirmed cases has topped 15,000 and the number of deaths surpassed 350.

Fifty-three of California’s 58 counties have been affected by the virus.

As of Monday, 47 LAPD employees and 13 members of the Los Angeles Fire Department have tested positive for the coronavirus, Garcetti said.

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And an employee at a federal lockup in downtown Los Angeles has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a document obtained by The Times. The employee last worked in the facility on April 1, and authorities are trying to trace the person’s contacts, according to a letter sent to the chief judge of the Central District of California.

It was not immediately clear if the employee was symptomatic at work, or if other employees or detainees had been tested for the virus as a result.

The positive test comes as jail and prison officials statewide struggle to contend with the risk of a potential rapid outbreak if the virus spreads among incarcerated persons.

Several employees of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which oversees one of the largest jail networks in the U.S., have tested positive for the virus in the past week. Additionally, two L.A. County Probation Department employees assigned to an area juvenile hall have also contracted the virus since April 1.

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The coronavirus has already made its presence known in California’s federal prison population. Five staff members and 23 inmates have contracted the virus at Lompoc, according to the Bureau of Prisons website.

Among the California corrections workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 are two nurses at the state’s medical prison near Stockton.

Internal prison records provided to The Times show the nurses, who worked in separate parts of the California Health Care Facility, tested positive on Sunday. In addition, another prison staff member is a “suspected case.” As a result, four medical blocks of the large prison have been put on medical quarantine — requiring staff to wear masks and gloves at all times when in those units.

Past prison memos showed nurses were ordered not to wear masks unless near a diagnosed patient, and to make plans to reuse protective gear while on their rounds to conserve in the face of short supplies. The infected nurses are among five workers at the medical prison who have tested positive for the virus.

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Orange County has continued to see a rapid rise in confirmed coronavirus infections, as its total case count hit 882 Monday — up more than 400 from a week ago. The county’s death toll remained at 14 in the latest update. Eight people who died were at least 65 years old, and three were between the ages of 45 and 64.

The county also reported that 137 people were hospitalized — the most to date. Of those, 56 were in intensive care, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Riverside County health officials confirmed 147 new coronavirus cases on Monday. The total number of cases is now 946, including 25 deaths — up from 19.

Out of the 230 reported cases of COVID-19 in the City of Long Beach, 70 people have recovered, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said Monday. The death toll there remains at three.

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Sacramento County reported two more deaths Monday morning, bringing the total there to 18.

As the death count in the U.S. surpassed 10,000, according to figures tallied by Johns Hopkins University, counties across California continue to see dramatic increases in people hospitalized with the virus, with more than 2,300 patients in the state. An additional 3,267 people hospitalized are suspected of having coronavirus but are awaiting test results.

According to a White House official, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has earmarked $894.7 million for California, including $501 million in COVID-19 reimbursement.

As of April 2, the federal government has provided a variety of medical supplies to the state, including more than 830,000 N95 masks, nearly 2 million surgical masks, 1.3 million gloves and roughly 2,000 medical beds. Los Angeles alone has received 170 ventilators and more than 249,000 N95 masks.

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Additionally, FEMA sold 105 travel trailers to California for a COVID-19 housing initiative. As the state works to increase hospital capacity by up to 50,000 beds, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has assessed eight facilities to house beds.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that California is redeploying ventilators back into the national stockpile while the state awaits more. He thinks it’s ethically responsible for the state to provide resources in real time to those most in need.

“If we need them back in a few weeks, we’ll get them back,” he said.

Newsom said the state will receive about 500 more ventilators as early as Tuesday. Meanwhile, Santa Clara County is asking for access to more of the breathing machines.

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Newsom said that among California’s COVID-19 patients, 2,509 have been hospitalized and 1,085 are in intensive care.

So far, hospitals have not been overwhelmed by patients. And California officials believe strict social distancing measures are already helping the state when compared with coronavirus hot spots such as New York, where thousands have died.

However, Ferrer said Friday that Los Angeles County should expect to see 1,000 new coronavirus cases a day in the coming weeks.

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Whether the increase remains manageable, Ferrer said, depends on how well residents adhere to guidelines that they wash their hands frequently, stay home as much as possible, remain 6 feet away from others after leaving the house and avoid going out entirely if they are over the age of 65, feel sick or have underlying health conditions.

“The next few weeks are going to be critically important because we are going to see more cases of people who are positive with COVID-19, but it’s our hope that the rate of increase continues to be manageable and that we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system,” she said.

Officials are taking new steps to try to slow the spread.

Riverside County’s public health officer on Saturday ordered all residents to cover their faces when leaving home, marking a dramatic escalation by county officials in their attempts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Dr. Cameron Kaiser said despite previous pleas from county officials for residents to socially distance, cover their faces and stay home, “more and more” residents were getting infected with the virus, and “not everyone’s getting the message.”

“We change from saying that you should to saying that you must,” Kaiser said in a prepared statement published by the county.

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

Los Angeles prosecutors on Friday filed criminal charges against two smoke shops, a shoe store and a discount electronics retailer, accusing them of refusing to shut down despite orders imposed to fight the coronavirus.

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It marks the first time the city has filed charges for violations of the Safer at Home order, which requires businesses deemed nonessential to close their doors.

In another dramatic move aimed at slowing the rapid spread of the coronavirus, California judicial leaders are expected to adopt a statewide emergency order setting bail at zero for misdemeanor and lower-level felony offenses.

In a remote meeting Monday, the Judicial Council also is expected to vote to suspend evictions and foreclosures and to allow for the expansion of court hearings held by video or telephone.

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Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye heads the council, the policymaking body for California’s court system. Newsom has given her and the council, which is primarily made up of judges, extraordinary temporary powers to suspend laws to deal with the health crisis.

For criminal and juvenile proceedings, including arraignments and preliminary examinations, the council will direct courts to prioritize the use of technology to meet legal deadlines and ensure that defendants and children are not held in custody without timely hearings, according to a report prepared for Monday’s meeting.

In criminal cases, the defendant must agree before a court hearing can be held remotely.

Times staff writers James Queally and Paige St. John also contributed to this report.


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