More COVID-19 restrictions on malls, gyms possible in L.A. County

Shoppers wait in line to enter the Calvin Klein store at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce in December.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Thursday that he would back new health orders being considered by the county Department of Public Health to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which is now resulting in the deaths of an average of 240 L.A. County residents a day, a record.

A decision hasn’t been made on whether closures or additional restrictions on capacity are needed. But settings that may be scrutinized could include outdoor gyms — which have been allowed to be open at 50% capacity — and indoor malls and retail, which are supposed to be open at only 20% of capacity, Garcetti said.

“I will support what [the Department of] Public Health recommends and our public health professionals recommend,” he said Thursday night. The mayor said it’s possible that additional closures may not be necessary if it seems the pandemic is stabilizing, “but the moment it goes up, like we saw in December — at any pace like that — absolutely, that is something we cannot sustain and most importantly, our hospitals cannot.”


Such a surge would tip L.A. County’s hospitals into the most catastrophic phase — caring for patients with “crisis standards of care,” in which hospitals are so overwhelmed by patients that they must choose which ones receive the attention of critical care nurses and respiratory therapists and access to ventilators, and which patients receive palliative care as they die.

In the past week, most regions of L.A. County had at least one day where they reported zero or one available ICU beds, including each of these regions: central L.A., the Antelope Valley, San Fernando Valley, San Gabriel Valley and Southeast L.A. County. The Westside reported as few as three ICU beds available, and the South Bay-and-Long Beach region reported as few as six.

An official at Memorial Hospital of Gardena, for instance, said this week that its ICU was at 320% occupancy, and problems include staffing shortages, particularly difficulty finding ICU nurses, and of home oxygen supplies are delaying the discharge of many COVID-19 patients who are keeping beds occupied.

Hospital morgues are so overcrowded across Southern California that county coroner’s offices have been opened to temporarily store corpses until the significant backlog at funeral homes and mortuaries can be eased. The National Guard has been called to help assist in the transport of bodies to the coroner’s office in L.A. County.

Cumulatively, L.A. County passed through the milestone of 13,000 deaths Thursday, tallying a total of 13,244 deaths from the start of the pandemic. There have been a cumulative total of 976,075 coronavirus cases.

More than 2,000 deaths in L.A. County have been reported in just the last nine days.