UPDATED 3.19.2020: Two of the 190 confirmed cases in Los Angeles County are in Lancaster, according to the Lancaster City website. “At this time, both patients [are] doing well and expected to go home in a few days,” according to the city website, which was last updated on March 19.
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LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials confirmed 46 more cases of coronavirus Wednesday, and authorities urged continued social distancing and announced plans to extend the availability of winter shelter beds.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health said the 46 new cases reported by the agency bring the county’s total to 190 patients. The new figures mean that nearly 100 new cases have been reported in the area in the past 48 hours, but Ferrer urged residents not to get discouraged or get the idea that social distancing efforts aren’t working.
“Because we cannot stop the spread of COVID-19, all of our strategies are aimed at slowing the spread,” she said. “We need to work hard to make sure that happens. … This is what you often hear as flattening the curve.”
Only one death from coronavirus has been reported in Los Angeles County.
Ferrer said the number of confirmed cases underestimates how freely the coronavirus is circulating.
“For every case that we’re testing people, there are maybe 5-10 cases … that haven’t been tested (and are infected),” Ferrer said, reminding residents that there are likely cases in their community.
Dr. Christina Ghaly, who runs the county hospital system, echoed the point that some infected individuals — who may not have any symptoms at all — are walking around unaware they have the virus.
“People should assume that those they come into contact with might be positive for the virus,” Ghaly said.
Ferrer thanked residents for their efforts avoiding large gatherings, remaining home and distancing themselves from others. She noted, however, that the mandates don’t mean people cannot leave their homes.
“Everyone should remain at home as much as possible,” she said, adding that “you should, however, feel free to take a walk, a hike, a run — just not with a group of people.”
While again stressing the heightened danger of the virus to people over 65, she hailed efforts by grocery stores to provide them with specialized times to shop. But she said, “The safest option for all seniors is to have food and medicine and essential services delivered to them in their homes.”
In addition to helping older neighbors access necessities, Ghaly said residents can help by donating blood to bolster “critically low” supplies nationwide. She said there is no clinical evidence that the coronavirus can be spread through the blood.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the county is working to provide additional protection for the homeless in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. As part of that effort, the county plans to extend its winter shelter program — which normally ends March 31 — until the end of April.
Solis said it is “more urgent than ever to expand our capacity” to provide housing, noting that there are 7,000 interim housing beds in place, and the county is “working to put thousands more online over the next few weeks and months.”
The county is also continuing to evaluate sites that can be used for temporary housing facilities.
L.A. County has issued an emergency moratorium on residential and commercial evictions, providing protections for residents who may be unable to pay their rent on time due to work lost because of widespread business closures.
Under the moratoriums, tenants would be given up to six months to repay missed rent.
County officials said they are working to provide financial relief for businesses that have been forced to close because of the virus. They are working to help businesses apply for emergency loans from the U.S. 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,” county Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Tuesday. “… We do not want any business to fall through the cracks.”
Meanwhile, all Los Angeles County Superior Court courthouses and courtrooms will remain closed to the public 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.”
Jury trials will also be on hold until mid-April.
Ferrer has repeatedly stressed the 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.
On Wednesday morning, California health officials reported a total of 598 coronavirus cases statewide and 13 deaths. Sixty-five percent of those confirmed cases were individuals ages 18-64, while 13 cases were identified in people younger than 18, according to the California Department of Public Health release.