Updated at 6:35 p.m., March 19, 2020: Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday evening an order for all residents of Los Angeles to stay in their residences and avoid nonessential travel. Essential workers such as first responders would be exempt from the order; he also confirmed that delivery workers, including gig workers for services such as Postmates, would qualify as essential workers. The mandate goes into effect at midnight and will last through March 31.
The vast majority of businesses in Los Angeles will close under the order, including any shopping and nonessential retails outlets that to date have remained open, as well as playgrounds for children.
Critical government services would remain operational, as well as health services from hospitals to cannabis dispensaries; however, gyms and other exercise facilities would not fall under this exemption.
The mayor reiterated that no Angelenos would be evicted or have their utilities cut off, and public transportation would continue, albeit running reduced schedules. Additionally, citizens would still able to to walk through their neighborhoods for exercise.
Health officials expect the order to translate into “thousands and thousands of less people to be infected.”
The “Safer at Home” order follows in the steps of other municipalities, such as Orange County and San Francisco.
I’m issuing a Safer at Home emergency order — ordering all residents of @LACity to stay inside their homes and immediately limit all nonessential movement. We’re taking this urgent action to limit the spread of COVID-19 and save lives. https://t.co/4yVdjXMEJ0 pic.twitter.com/QscQUbqkaC
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) March 20, 2020
After coronavirus, or COVID-19 led the White House to declare a national emergency, local responses to the pandemic have increased, changing life in Los Angeles in a myriad of ways — and more is likely to come. Governor Gavin Newsom’s call for a lockdown on bars and restaurants in California yesterday led Mayor Eric Garcetti to issue a city-wide executive order shutting down these establishments in L.A., along with restrictions or closures on any place where people gather, such as movie theaters, museums and gyms. This comes on the heels of last week’s cancellations or closures of sporting events and amusement parks, festivals, live music and art happenings.
I’m taking executive action to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in @LACity by closing bars, nightclubs, restaurants (except takeout/delivery), entertainment venues and gyms until March 31 unless extended. Grocery stores will remain open. Watch live: https://t.co/iDFp1C4Zpz pic.twitter.com/IlTcanN2tA
— MayorOfLA (@MayorOfLA) March 16, 2020
The Los Angeles Unified School District also closed all schools, effective Monday, March 16, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As of now, they’ll stay shuttered for two weeks, though an extension may be added should the pandemic situation necessitate such it.
In a Sunday interview with CNN, L.A.’s mayor spoke about the two-week national shutdown and encouraged closing down all in-person dining, limiting restaurant service to pick up, takeout and drive-through only. He also shared this information via Facebook Live video, and many received text message notifications.
“This is a difficult time and it’s putting a strain on our families, our communities, our businesses,” Garcetti tweeted yesterday. “There are other ways you can support local shops: buy a gift card over the phone, get takeout, order online. We can support local business and practice social distancing.”
Beyond the lockdown on Los Angeles’ hospitality scene, Garcetti has been providing updates on coronavirus testing within the county. He told CNN bluntly, “we don’t have enough [tests].”
“We’re getting the tests to the critical people who need them, who are the most vulnerable, but, by and large, to address the pandemic, we still don’t [have enough],” explained Garcetti. “Even though we have here in Southern California a number of private labs and our public labs that are working around the clock and doing an amazing job… we need more. It was dereliction of duty to not have that prepared, but we are now scrambling.”
Highlighting the state’s priority to test those most susceptible, Garcetti promised “I think we can get those tests to the people who need them most right now.”
“The most important thing is to protect the most vulnerable,” agreed Gov. Newsom in his press conference Sunday, where he outlined new isolation guidelines for California. “In the state of California, we estimate we have 5.3 million Californians that are 65 years or older; of those 5.3 million [aged] 65 years and over, we are prioritizing their safety because of their unique vulnerabilities to this virus.”
In addition to shuttering restaurants and bars, Newsom has called for the home isolation of all seniors in the state. We’ve all been hearing “social distancing” for good reason. “It is the most effective and readily available tool we have to slow the spread of novel coronavirus,” confirms The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
As of Sunday, March 15, Public Health has reported 16 new cases of 2019 COVID-19 in the county; five of these cases are currently hospitalized. In a recent press release, Public Health established that it has identified 69 cases of COVID-19 to date. They believe that 10 of the cases are due to community transmission.
“We anticipate more cases and increased community spread as more testing occurs,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Los Angeles County Public Health Director. “We are asking everyone to expect more social distancing requirements as more cases are identified.”
Those concerned about symptoms are being asked to call their health care provider, not emergency services. “Please do not call 911 to request testing for COVID-19 and please do not go to our emergency rooms unless you are seriously ill and require emergency care. If you have respiratory illness and want to know if you should be tested for COVID-19, it is best to call your health care provider or, if you don’t have a provider, call 2-1-1 for help finding a clinician near you. Our healthcare providers are prepared to see more cases, but we must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to minimize strain on our healthcare system and other service providers.” Ferrer added.
To Angelenos looking to bypass pandemic restrictions, Garcetti’s words from yesterday should be heeded. “Let me be very clear: gathering in big groups puts lives at risk,” he said. “We need everyone to stay home as much as possible, avoid being in crowds, practice social distancing. Taking these steps will help keep our hospitals and healthcare workers from being inundated with COVID-19 cases.”
At press time, Garcetti was hosting a Facebook Live video press conference with local grocery store owners highlighting their assurances that food supply is in no danger of running out, as well as their heightened sanitation practices and shortened hours. They also plead with L.A. residents to stop hoarding food and supplies.
For updates on Los Angeles’ response to the coronavirus and existing shutdowns, visit corona-virus.la. For information on COVID-19 visit the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, California Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO). L.A. County residents can also call 2-1-1.