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L.A. County sees more deaths as stay-at-home becomes ‘our new normal’ for now

Downtown Los Angeles looking East from MacArthur Park during the coronavirus pandemic
Downtown Los Angeles looking East from MacArthur Park during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

In Los Angeles County, life is a contradiction.

Trails, parks and golf courses reopened throughout the county Saturday, just in time for socially distant Mother’s Day celebrations. Beaches will reopen this week. And in-person purchases, albeit curbside, were once again available at boutiques, bookstores, flower shops and other businesses previously deemed nonessential.

The reopening of the economy might indicate progress in the fight against the coronavirus, were it not for the fact that the COVID-19 death toll and confirmed number of cases continue to rise.

L.A. County accounts for more than half of all deaths and nearly half of the COVID-19 cases in California. More than 2,700 people have died statewide, and nearly 68,000 individuals have been confirmed to be infected.

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Health officials said Monday that another 39 people have died of the virus, and 591 more people have tested positive. Roughly 240,000 of 10 million residents have been tested for COVID-19, with 32,258 known infections, officials said.

“It’s safer to stay at home. COVID-19 has not changed,” Barbara Ferrer, the head of the Department of Public Health, said on Monday. The virus remains easily transmissible, she said.

Residents should maintain social distancing practices, wear face coverings while in public spaces and regularly wash their hands, she said, adding: “This is our new normal. It will go on for a while.”

The growing number of confirmed cases includes 134 pregnant women. There have been 29 live births among women who tested positive, Ferrer said. Twenty-four infants were tested at birth, including one set of twins, and none tested positive for infection.

There have also been 3,614 healthcare workers and first responders who have contracted the illness, Ferrer said. Twenty healthcare workers have died, including 14 who worked in skilled nursing or assisted living facilities.

Other major concerns facing L.A. Unified include supplying masks for students and staff, and sanitizing schools, schools Supt. Austin Beutner says.

Los Angeles County beaches, which have been closed since late March, will reopen Wednesday with some new rules.

Surfing, swimming, running and walking will be allowed. Biking, playing volleyball, sitting, sunbathing and picnicking will be banned. Coolers and canopies are not allowed. Parking lots, bike paths, piers and boardwalks will remain closed.

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Everyone will be required to wear masks and stay at least six feet away from others, officials said.

Crowds did not storm newly reopened businesses, trailheads and parks, Ferrer said. Of 410 reopened businesses surveyed, 162 were found to be in violation, and some were instructed to close.

More than 70% of the state’s economy has reopened with modifications, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. While there are signs of progress, such as a modest decrease in patients in intensive care, the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise, he said.

“We’re still seeing lives lost from this pandemic,” he said. “It is absolutely incumbent on all of us to be thoughtful and judicious as we move into this next phase.”

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Experts attribute a rising forecast of coronavirus-linked deaths to the public growing more weary of stay-at-home orders and moves to roll them back.

Researchers now predict that California could see more than 6,000 coronavirus-related deaths by the end of August, up about 1,420 from projections released last week.

As officials continue to instruct the public to wear face masks and to keep six feet away from others, protests against restrictions continue in some parts of the state.

In Huntington Beach, where beaches have been reopened with modifications, roughly 1,500 people gathered Saturday and held signs reading, “Reopen,” the second such demonstration there in a little over a week.

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In Riverside County, officials voted Friday to rescind the county’s stay-at-home orders that went beyond Newson’s mandates, which are now entering their eighth week. Among the county’s decisions was to eliminate a requirement to wear face coverings, one of the first implemented in California.


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