LOS ANGELES – Saying dramatic rises in coronavirus cases should be anticipated given increases in testing, Los Angeles County public health officials announced 50 new cases of the illness Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 144.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer cautioned that the increase in the county’s cases — up more than 50% from Monday — should not be seen as a failure of “social distancing” measures that have been taken, such as closing bars and restaurants and cautioning against gatherings.
“If you look across the world, it generally takes three to four weeks to see the fruits of our labors,” she said.
She said most of the 50 newly identified cases are still being investigated to determine the patients’ source of exposure. Three of the new cases were reported earlier in the day by Long Beach, where a total of eight cases have now been confirmed. Of the three new Long Beach cases, two were people who had traveled to coronavirus-affected areas.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the county was enacting an emergency moratorium on all residential and commercial evictions in unincorporated areas. The moratorium will be retroactive to March 4 and will remain in place until May 31, she said. The move is aimed at protecting tenants who may find themselves unable to pay rent because they lost work due to the coronavirus restrictions. Under the moratorium, tenants would be given up to six months to repay missed rent.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, meanwhile, sought to assure business owners who have been forced to close due to the pandemic — most notably bars, movie theaters, nightclubs, bowling alleys and restaurants — that the county will be working to assist them with federal loans.
“In addition to our focus on public health … we are equally focused on the personal and economic impacts and putting measures in place to protect employees and small businesses,” she said.
Barger said the county “is committed to assisting small businesses in applying for loans through the Small Business Administration.”
“While the Small Business Administration is not at the county level, we will be working with state and federal representatives and our partner agencies,” she said. “… We do not want any business to fall through the cracks.”
The county officials urged business owners to comply with the closure orders, while also calling on residents to heed warnings against public gatherings.
Ferrer specifically cited recent media footage of crowds inside grocery stores and long lines of tightly quartered customers waiting in checkout lines.
She called on residents to “practice social distancing whenever you’re out and about.”
All Los Angeles County Superior Court courthouses and courtrooms were closed to the public Tuesday and will remain shuttered until Friday.
Between Friday and April 16, courtrooms will generally remain closed, but with a long list of exceptions for necessary court proceedings, such as restraining order hearings, emergency custody issues, arraignments, criminal preliminary hearings, sentencing hearings and emergency orders “relating to the health and safety of a child.”
The court system earlier pushed off any new civil or criminal jury trials for at least the next 30 days, while giving trial judges discretion about whether to continue jury trials that were already in session.
Ferrer has repeatedly stressed the building threat of “community transmission” of the coronavirus, meaning people are being infected without any known source of exposure. Such transmission often means that patients are being exposed to people who have the illness but are unaware they are infected.
In addition to closing bars and ordering restaurants to eliminate dine-in service, the county has also ordered the closure of all fitness centers, entertainment centers, bowling alleys and movie theaters. Under the order, restaurants are restricted to takeout or delivery service.
The mandate applies to all cities within the county, as well as unincorporated areas. Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments, have also issued the same requirements.
On Tuesday morning, California state health officials reported a total of 472 cases statewide and 11 deaths.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, who runs the county hospital system, asked residents to preserve emergency room capacity at all area hospitals for those in need.
Like many of the roughly 100 hospitals across Los Angeles County, county hospitals will be canceling elective surgeries to increase capacity. The county is also increasing access to tele-medicine services.
Los Angeles County has closed all of its buildings because of the coronavirus. County hospitals and clinics will remain open. It’s not yet known how long the closures will remain in effect.