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Coronavirus could halt L.A. concerts, sporting events until 2021, Garcetti says

An empty Dodger Stadium
Dodger Stadium sits empty.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles may hold off on allowing big gatherings until 2021 because of the coronavirus threat, according to an internal Los Angeles Fire Department email reviewed by The Times.

Mayor Eric Garcetti raised the issue during his weekly briefing Monday with a group of high-level staff from several departments, including Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas. Garcetti indicated during the conference call that “large gatherings such as concerts and sporting events may not be approved in the city for at least 1 year,” according to the email.

LAFD Deputy Chief Trevor Richmond wrote the email summarizing Terrazas’ meeting with Garcetti and others and sent it Tuesday to several fire department staffers. The email was reviewed by The Times.

Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said Tuesday that Terrazas was “paraphrasing information he received from the mayor regarding possible scenarios for reopening timelines across a range of events.”

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In his nightly coronavirus briefings, Mayor Eric Garcetti has struck a tone that is one part stern dad, one part life coach, with a hint of Marianne Williamson.

Garcetti spokesman Alex Comisar confirmed the mayor’s comments at the meeting. “The mayor was generally referencing studies of current and historical data and best practices for safely reopening our economy,” Comisar said.

Comisar said the mayor doesn’t have a timeline for Los Angeles to begin resuming large-scale events. Garcetti himself has repeatedly told Angelenos during his nightly press briefings that it would be a mistake to reopen businesses and stores before the pandemic can be controlled.

“It’s difficult to imagine us getting together in the thousands any time soon. I think we should be prepared for that this year. I think we all have never wanted science to work so quickly. But until there’s either a vaccine, some sort pharmaceutical intervention or herd immunity, the science is the science,” Garcetti said on CNN Wednesday.

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Garcetti also talked during the conference call with his staff about reopening the economy, starting with “essential businesses and small businesses ... phased in over a period of time (6-10 months),” according to Richmond’s email.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused the cancellation of sporting, music and cultural events across the globe.

Firefighters and law enforcement officers from L.A. to Laguna Beach express their gratitude to healthcare workers for their efforts in fighting COVID-19.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that events that draw hundreds or thousands of strangers will be off limits for the near future, based on current guidelines. The state needs to boost testing, protect high-risk residents from infection and expand hospital capacity before the stay-at-home order imposed last month can be modified, he said.

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“The prospect of mass gatherings is negligible at best until we get to herd immunity and we get to a vaccine,” Newsom said.

Absent a vaccine, Newsom said that Californians should expect to continue to wear face coverings or masks, and to visit restaurants with fewer tables, disposable menus and waiters wearing masks and gloves as the state slowly transitions back to normal.

His administration suggested the state will introduce guidelines for businesses to conduct “health checks” when employees return to work.

He also discussed the possibility of staggering school start times throughout the day for students if they return to campus in the fall.

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Experts say stay-at-home orders could persist until the end of May or mid-June.

Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a UCLA medical epidemiologist and infectious disease expert, said by that time, places that have effectively maintained physical distancing measures will see significant reductions in the numbers of cases. In the nation’s worst-hit areas, hospitals may start to see relief.

Also at that time, Kim-Farley suspects there will be enough capacity to offer tests for the virus and antibodies — to determine whether people are immune — to meet the demand.

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In the early summer, perhaps in the middle of June to the end of July, there may be some nuanced, tailored approaches for getting people back to work and easing stay-at-home orders, he said.

Elsewhere, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell has recommended that large events in that city be pushed off until 2021, according to a local news report.


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