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L.A. County coronavirus cases top 15,000 as nearby locales mull lifting stay-at-home orders

Medical workers attend to an intubated COVID-19 patient in Chula Vista on April 10, 2020.
Healthcare workers attend to an intubated COVID-19 patient at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center in Chula Vista on April 10, 2020.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday confirmed 1,400 more coronavirus cases, 880 of which were included in a backlog from laboratories that had not previously reported results through the county’s electronic system.

The county also reported 46 new coronavirus-linked deaths, bringing the toll to at least 663.

More than 89,000 residents have been tested for COVID-19, and at least 15,140 have tested positive, Public Health Department director Barbara Ferrer said.

There are 1,739 people currently hospitalized with the virus, and of those, 31% are in intensive care. Nearly one-fifth of all hospitalized patients are on ventilators.

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The news comes as various communities throughout the state consider easing stay-at-home orders issued to stem the spread of the disease. As Week 5 of California’s coronavirus restrictions continue, several counties have begun to shift their policies and Gov. Gavin Newsom plans to outline more strategic targets for easing restrictions.

COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to be reported in 53 of the state’s 58 counties, with the largest numbers tallied in Los Angeles County.

L.A. County officials on Monday emphasized the need for residents to maintain social distancing practices after results from a study suggested that tens of thousands of the county’s residents may have been infected with the virus. Without such efforts, that number would be far higher than the more than 15,000 cases that have been confirmed in the county of roughly 10 million people.

Hundreds of thousands of L.A. County residents may have been infected with the coronavirus by early April, outpacing total of known cases, report says.

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Ferrer echoed that guidance Tuesday. Los Angeles County’s Safer at Home order was previously extended to May 15, but Ferrer said that date is not a “magic number.” She noted that officials are relying on data and science and working with local hospitals to determine when to lift stay-at-home restrictions, and she asked residents to continue adhering to such mandates until told otherwise.

“We have to take responsibly for 10 million people who live in L.A. County,” Ferrer said.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said that a decision to reopen the county will not be based solely on the voices who have expressed concern with the closures.

“We know we can’t be foolish,” she said.

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A study shows roughly 4% of L.A. County residents have contracted COVID-19, suggesting it might be less fatal locally than originally believed.

While Newsom and Ferrer have said that evidence suggests social distancing has helped flatten the curve of the outbreak, both have continued to caution local governments against rushing to reopen.

During a news conference Tuesday, Newsom called on Californians to remain cautious in order to protect one another as the number of deaths and hospitalizations continued to rise.

“We’re making progress in the state, but there was a spirit that defined that progress, and that was community,” he said. “If we pull back too quickly, those numbers will go through the roof.”

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The governor told residents of communities that had been less affected by the virus to “disabuse” themselves of the idea that they were in the clear. He also acknowledged that several counties had reached out to ask about stay-at-home modifications, all with different proposed time periods, something that will be addressed Wednesday during the state’s update on its road map to reopening.

“We’re processing those time lines and working in a collaborative spirit ... with local partners,” Newsom said.

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday evening that he intends to sign a worker retention ordinance that could protect people who have been laid off or furloughed by requiring companies to rehire them based on seniority.

“Those folks with decades of experience and seniority, who support families and communities, can’t be the victims when we get back to work,” Garcetti said. “For so many thousands of displaced workers in these industries, this could mean at least a little bit of certainty at this moment of so much insecurity and a whole lot of fairness as we navigate this crisis.”

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He said the City Council is taking up the ordinance Wednesday.

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In Ventura and Riverside counties, officials have already begun to ease restrictions. Some businesses and golf courses have reopened in Riverside County, and in Ventura County, gatherings of up to five people are again allowed.

In San Diego, city parks reopened for “individual use” Tuesday, although recreation centers and parking lots remain closed.

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Some smaller California communities want to begin easing stay-at-home restrictions, saying they have made enough progress against the coronavirus.

Newsom said that, in many instances, counties initially went beyond the state’s guidelines on restrictions issued to curb the spread of the coronavirus. In those instances, Newsom said, the more stringent measures could be loosened as long as they didn’t violate state limits.

Still, the governor emphasized that the virus continued to spread.

“This virus knows no jurisdiction,” he said Monday. “Different parts of this state [have been] impacted differently, but ... the collective responsibility we have to one another, neighboring counties, neighboring cities, also must be considered.”

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Ferrer asked Los Angeles County residents on Monday to refrain from visiting Ventura County, which was the first to lift restrictions.

“I want to beg people in L.A. County: Please do not go to Ventura County to use their resources,” she said. “You could inadvertently infect yourself and infect others in the county.”

Garcetti issued a similar plea on Twitter late Monday night.

“I know many of you are feeling frustrated or wondering when we’ll be able to lift the Safer at Home order. But lifting the restrictions too soon could risk lives. My promise to the people of L.A. is that evidence and medicine will continue to guide us through this crisis.”


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