New stay at home order issued for Los Angeles County as coronavirus cases surge

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Los Angeles County is under a new stay at home order issued by the L.A. County Department of Public Health. The order goes into effect on Monday and will last for three weeks, until Dec. 20. Perhaps if all goes well, Santa Claus will be allowed to make his deliveries on Christmas Eve.

There is a new spike in coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County which has caused the county to take action. An increase in hospitalizations is causing local authorities to sound the alarm. On Friday, Public Health confirmed 24 new deaths and 4,544 new cases of COVID-19. Currently, the five-day average of new cases is 4,751. Since that number exceeds 4500 new cases, the latest order kicks in to try to mitigate the spread of the virus. For perspective, there are 1,893 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized in the county and 24% of these people are in the ICU. On October 27, one month ago, there were 747 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

On November 17, Los Angeles County established thresholds for additional actions if the five-day average of cases is 4,500 or more or hospitalizations are more than 2,000 per day. A new Health Officer Order would be issued for three weeks that offered additional safety modifications while allowing essential and emergency workers and those securing or providing essential and permitted services to leave their homes.

In the new Order that goes into effect on Monday, residents are advised to stay home as much as possible and always wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are outside their household and around others.

The order tells people to stay home as much as possible. Restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries remain closed for in-person dining and drinking because customers don’t wear face masks, and the risk of transmission of the virus increases. Restaurants, wineries, and breweries are allowed to continue to stay open for delivery, pick-up, and take-out services. Breweries and wineries can remain open for retail sales at 20% occupancy.

Public Health reminds everyone to stay home as much as possible and avoid seeing people you don’t live with, even if you don’t feel sick. Residents are also reminded to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth whenever they are outside their home and around others, as COVID-19 can be unintentionally spread to other people. We can also reduce transmission by keeping a physical distance of at least 6-feet when outside and around others. Taking these simple safety precautions, in addition to washing your hands frequently, will save lives.

Additionally, it is very important that if you are even mildly sick or think you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 that you stay home and away from other people, especially those at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and consider being tested for COVID-19.

To date, Public Health identified 387,793 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 7,604 deaths. Testing results are available for more than 3,681,714 individuals with 10% of all people testing positive.

“To those who recently lost loved ones from COVID-19, we send you wishes for healing and peace,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “With the recent surge of COVID-19 across our community, we must take additional safety measures to reduce the risk of illness and death from this terrible virus and protect our healthcare system. These targeted measures are in effect for the next three weeks and still allow for many essential and non-essential activities where residents are always masked and distanced. We know we are asking a lot from so many who have been sacrificing for months on end and we hope that L.A. County residents continue following Public Health safety measures that we know can slow the spread. Acting with collective urgency right now is essential if we want to put a stop to this surge. Please remain home as much as possible and do not gather with others not in your household for the next three weeks.”

It sounds so simple, right? Just hunker down for three weeks and then the county officials will allow you to go back to a more normal life, maybe. This all assumes, of course, that small businesses like the neighborhood bar or your favorite restaurant in your suburb’s strip mall can remain financially viable for another mandatory closure. Will they be able to reopen when the government allows them to do so? And, employees will be laid off from their jobs.

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There are to be no private gatherings that do not involve members of your immediate household. The only public gatherings allowed are in churches and for protests. It’s 2020 and protests are considered essential activities, just like church services. It is hard to avoid rolling my eyes over that reality. Those two exceptions are labeled as “constitutionally protected rights” in the statement issued by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Occupancy rate mandates and other restrictions are as arbitrary as those in other cities and counties across the country.

Occupancy limits were issued for various businesses. Fitness centers, museums, galleries and zoos can operate at a 50 percent maximum occupancy. Essential retail can remain open at 35 percent capacity, compared to 20 percent occupancy for non-essential retail including indoor malls. Nail salons and personal care services must remain below 20 percent occupancy. Public playgrounds will be closed but beaches, trails, and parks will remain open.

Fortunately for the sake of the children, schools will remain open as will day camps. The Public Health director issued a statement acknowledging the hardship she is placing on those living in the county. She sounds like public officials sounded like when lockdowns first began at the beginning of the pandemic. Let’s just all stay home until the curve is flattened, they said. So we did and it was but here we are again. It’s a vicious cycle – cases are reported, hospitalizations increase, medical professionals sound the alarm, and another period of shutdowns begins. There has not been herd immunity established and the cycle will continue until everyone is vaccinated when the vaccines become available.

“We know we are asking a lot from so many who have been sacrificing for months on end and we hope that L.A. County residents continue following public health safety measures that we know can slow the spread,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Acting with collective urgency right now is essential if we want to put a stop to this surge. Please remain home as much as possible and do not gather with others not in your household for the next three weeks.”

Public health officials are concerned that the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will be a superspreader time period around the country. There’s no doubt this weighed into L.A. County’s decision to go ahead and lock its residents down now. Good luck to the small businesses barely hanging on right now.

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