Los Angeles Issues New Stay at Home Order as Coronavirus Surges

Coronavirus Pandemic - Los Angeles Streets - Brighton Way Beverly Hills - Getty-H 2020
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The temporary order, which takes effect Monday, advises residents to stay home "as much as possible," wear a face covering when they go out and bans people from gathering with people who aren't in their households, whether publicly or privately.

Los Angeles County announced a new stay-home order Friday as coronavirus cases surge out of control in the nation’s most populous county.

The three-week order takes effect Monday. It came as the county confirmed 24 new deaths and 4,544 new cases of COVID-19. The five-day average of new cases was 4,751.

Nearly 2,000 people in the county are hospitalized.

"We know we are asking a lot from so many who have been sacrificing for months on end," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "Acting with collective urgency right now is essential if we want to put a stop to this surge."

The order advises residents to stay home "as much as possible" and to wear a face covering when they go out. It bans people from gathering with people who aren't in their households, whether publicly or privately.

However, exceptions are made for church services and protests, "which are constitutionally protected rights," the county Department of Public Health said in a statement.

Businesses are allowed to remain open but with limited capacity, and the same is true of nail salons and other personal care services. Beaches, trails, and parks also will remain open, with safety requirements.

Restaurants, bars, breweries and wineries will remain closed for in-person dining and drinking. but can be open for pick-up, delivery and take-out.

The temporary order, which runs through Dec. 20, is more modest than a statewide closure order in the spring.

Just last week California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a Safer at Home order that prohibited nonessential businesses and personal gatherings from occurring between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m..

"The virus is spreading at a pace we haven't seen since the start of this pandemic and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge. We are sounding the alarm," said Newsom in the announcement.

The restrictions are said to have slowed the spread of COVID-9 and some restrictions were eased but the caseload picked up again in summer and in recent weeks has surged to record levels throughout most of the state — as well as throughout most states in the country.

Daily cases numbers in California have set records in recent days. Hospitalizations statewide have increased more than 80 percent in the last two weeks. Nearly 2,000 people in the county are now hospitalized and the new order is part of an effort to prevent the county's health system from being overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, public health officials are bracing for a wave of cases that could follow gatherings at Thanksgiving. Officials say it usually takes two to three weeks for such serious cases to show but about 12 percent of those infected could wind up hospitalized.

Despite its reputation for sprawl, Los Angeles has some of the densest neighborhoods in the U.S. Many of those areas have multi-generational households where workers who don’t have the luxury to telecommute are exposed to the virus at work or on public transportation and spread it to family members.

Case numbers in those communities have been higher and the virus has disproportionately affected more Latinos and Black people.

With infections out of control, the other options for public officials to take are even more onerous and unlikely to be enacted in the U.S., said Dr. George Rutherford, an epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

China, for example, tested millions of people and enforced quarantines. Italy brought in the military to enforce a shutdown.

"It’s hard to imagine how much further you can go in a society like we have," he said. "It’s a balancing act, right? You want people to obey it but you don’t want to make it so draconian that people are trying to figure out ways around it all the time."

The recent Safer at Home order marks the second mandate implemented in Los Angeles County, following an order issued in March by L.A. County mayor Eric Garcetti.