We made it through another week of the COVID-19 crisis, Los Angeles. And in the wake Mayor Eric Garcetti’s stricter “Safer at Home” orders, more of us did what we needed to do, self-quarantining and taking this pandemic seriously in hopes of flattening the curve. Based on what Garcetti and Governor Gavin Newsom have said thus far, however, the worst might be yet to come.
Still, there were hopeful moments this week. The Coronavirus Relief Bill passed this week and thanks to Democratic reps rigorous input, it focuses a bit more on working people rather than corporations. Then, after a week of denying the country’s desperate needs for medical equipment and PPE (personal protective equipment) in his daily briefings and FOX News interviews, Donald Trump finally gave in to requests for federal help via the Defense Production Act (DPA) to oversee the manufacturing and distribution of ventilators, masks and more.
The U.S.N.S Mercy
There have been notable developments regarding the coronavirus’ impact on Los Angeles too, including the arrival of hospital ship Mercy, earlier today. The U.S. Naval Ship Mercy sailed into the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, bringing close to 800 medical personnel, 1,000 hospital beds and 12 operating rooms with it. The county will utilize the ship’s resources in their ongoing fight against the COVID-19, sending patients who do not have the virus to receive medical care onboard the ship. This will free up much-needed beds in regional hospitals for coronavirus-positive patients, as many are reaching capacity.
“The Port of Los Angeles stands ready to partner with the U.S. Navy and the federal government as it prepares to bring the USNS Mercy to the Port of Los Angeles. The welfare of our residents is the top priority during this public health crisis,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka in a press release sent earlier this week.
Port officials said that some patients who are currently hospitalized in L.A. County will be transferring to the ship for ongoing treatment, providing them with care away from infection. In order to create more space to treat patients, Mayor Garcetti has discussed repurposing the Los Angeles Convention Center as a field hospital or triage center. Hospitals such as Cedars-Sinai have requested to put up triage tents adjacent to their buildings, in order to be as close as possible to their patients.
The hospital ship is just what L.A. needs right now, as Mayor Garcetti believes Los Angeles is only days away from reaching New York City in terms of coronavirus infections and death. As of Friday, New York City is reporting 25,573 COVID-19 cases, with 366 deaths. “No matter where you live, you are the next city,” says Garcetti. “This virus doesn’t care where you live.”
In addition to hospital beds, medical supplies are also in short supply, as non-professionals are hoarding much-needed medical gear. “These actions cost lives,” admonishes Garcetti. N-95 masks are for medical professionals, instructs the mayor. The city is in the process of creating non-medical safety masks through L.A. Protects, a new movement that partners with the city’s fashion and garment industry.
According to today’s press release, the starting target for the L.A. Protects initiative is to manufacture 5 million non-medical masks for workers who need protection — grocery store workers, non-medical staff in hospitals and others providing essential services during the COVID-19 crisis.
L.A. has connected with partners and supply chains across the world to get the supplies necessary to fight the growing pandemic. Shanghai and L.A.’s sister city Guangzhou are both sending shipments of masks and protective wear to Los Angeles’ frontline doctors and medical staff. City Departments have also been directed to lift any and all bureaucratic hurdles to securing necessary supplies so that workers have access to them immediately.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused a major dip in the local and national economy as over 3.2 million Americans have filed for unemployment, a never-before seen surge that surpasses the Great Depression.
“This is dire, but it is not surprising,” Garcetti says. “In Los Angeles we have been busy preparing for the shock of this economic outbreak. We have already taken steps to help struggling workers and businesses.”
One of these steps is coronavirus.lacity.org/getconnected, offering low cost internet options to those finding themselves working from home with inadequate connection.
This is just one of the many initiatives being taken by the city leaders in an effort to relieve the financial impact of coronavirus on residents. Says Garcetti, “many Angelenos can’t wait for that federal relief check, and if they can they know it won’t last long enough.” With the rent coming due on April 1, the mayor reminds residents that they cannot be evicted if the effects of COVID-19 have made them unable to make rent.
Calling it a domino effect, Garcetti empathizes with all those in the chain: tenants, landlords, and banks. In a statement, he implored those who can afford it to continue to pay rent which supports the local economy. “We have to protect those landlords, and those tenants simultaneously,” explains the mayor. If someone has had an issue with an illegal eviction, they are asked to call the city for help.
DMV & Parks Closed, Parking Fines Lifted, Quarantine Breakers Could be Ticketed
L.A. has also relaxed parking and law enforcement for violations related to vehicle registration and driver’s licenses, in an effort to both mitigate resident costs and public exposure. California also closed all DMV offices to the public due to COVID-19, this week.
“People need to stay in their homes except for the most unavoidable outside tasks — and Angelenos don’t need to be worried about renewing tags and driver’s licenses right now,” said Mayor Garcetti. “If you can do those things online, then you should. But we should keep our focus on staying healthy and safer at home, and think about catching up on errands like these after this emergency ends.”
In response to the lack of adherence with the state’s request that all citizens shelter in place with the exception of essential activities, park facilities as well as all L.A. County beaches and trails will be closed to the public effective immediately. County and city Parks may remain open for passive recreation so long as social distancing is practiced at all times.
“The crowds we saw at our beaches last weekend were unacceptable,” County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a statement. “In order to save lives, beaches in L.A. County will be temporarily closed. I understand that this is a huge sacrifice for everyone who enjoys going to our beaches. But we cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus. This closure is temporary and we can always reopen these beaches when it is safe to do so.”
To date, Public Health has identified 1,465 cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County, including 26 deaths due to the virus. Twenty-one percent, 317 positive cases, have been hospitalized.
“We’re all safer at home, and that’s not a suggestion — it is the law,” said Mayor Garcetti. “Refusing to follow it isn’t brave or funny — it’s stupid and could wind up killing you or someone else. Angelenos are doing an extraordinary job of staying in their homes, and we won’t tolerate the selfish behavior of a few who unnecessarily put our community at risk.” Those in need of fresh air and exercise are asked to do so within their own neighborhoods.
Garcetti believes that the city’s stay-at-home order could last until May or longer, promising: “The shutdown of public areas will continue, to protect human life.”