'This is All About Increasing Social Distancing': L.A. County Ordered to Stay at Home

Los Angeles has enacted what city and county leaders are calling the "next steps" in the fight against the novel coronavirus. At a press conference on Thursday late afternoon, Supervisor Kathryn Barger detailed the Safer at Home Emergency Order, which will apply across Los Angeles County. Her remarks were followed by a series of statements from other public officials.

"This is all about increasing social distancing," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.


People are being asked to refrain from gathering in enclosed spaces in groups of more than ten. Non-essential businesses will be closed. Non-essential workers should not go to work.

"We all know it will be temporary," said Supervisor Barger, but no specific end date was given.

"The data is crystal clear," said Garcetti. Based on testing, he explained, Los Angeles' infection trajectory resembles Italy's before the problem there escalated exponentially; overcrowded hospitals have been widely reported.

"We're trying to intervene earlier and we're trying to be one of those countries where the curve flattens," said Garcetti, referring to the effort to slow the rate of infection and avoid overwhelming the health system.

He praised the efforts of community members so far, citing the rare abundance of green that he has been seeing on Google traffic maps.

"But I don't want to sugarcoat it. Today is a day that will be seared into the story and the streets of this city. It will be a moment when everything changed."

Multiple officials stressed that citizens should not worry about shortages of food, water or other essential items, and that people can still go outside, and order food delivery and take-out.

Young people were asked to take the order seriously. Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia noted that, "Young people can absolutely carry the virus to other populations and are vulnerable themselves."

As to enforcement, Garcetti said officials will proceed with a 'light touch'. "Nobody is locked down," said the mayor. "This is not shelter in place like a school shooting. This is stay at home, because you are safer there."

The first question during the Q&A that followed the statements asked for clarification.

"The goal is for people to comply with this," answered Supervisor Barger. "We're not going to have law enforcement out there arresting people, but we will have law enforcement in terms of business compliance."

The measure goes into effect at 11:59pm Thursday, and 11:59pm on Friday for businesses.

On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom wrote a letter to President Donald Trump requesting the deployment of a naval ship off the California coast to help "decompress our current health care delivery system in Los Angeles".

"We project that roughly 56 percent of our population–25.5 million people–will be infected with the virus over an eight-week period," he wrote.

Shortly after the Los Angeles press conference, Governor Newsom issued a similar, statewide order directing residents "to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors."

The statewide order noted, however, that the Governor "may designate additional sectors as critical in order to protect the health and well-being of all Californians."

Officials have noted that updated information is available at lacounty.gov/covid19, coronavirus.lacity.org and covid19.ca.gov.


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It's almost 90 degrees outside in Los Angeles as lines of cars pull up to Dodger Stadium, home to a mass vaccination site that opened Friday.

"Please make sure that they're not under the sun in the cart," Edith Mirzaian is telling a volunteer as she directs the person to put ice packs on coolers that hold up to 20 COVID vaccines. Mirzaian is a USC associate professor of clinical pharmacy and an operational lead at one of California's largest vaccination sites.

Dodger Stadium alone — once the nation's largest COVID-19 testing site — is slated to vaccine up to 12,000 people each day, county and city health officials said this week. Officials plan to finish vaccinating some 500,000 health care and assisted care employees by the end of this month before opening appointments up to people 65 and older.

Mirzaian is desperately trying to make sure that the vaccines don't spoil.

"We have to be the guardians of the vaccine," she said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of vaccinations were lost after a refrigerator went out in Northern California, forcing the hospital to rush to give out hundreds of doses. Mirzaian's task tells a larger story of the difficult and often daunting logistical process required to roll out a vaccine that requires cold temperatures.

"You know they can't be warm so just keep an eye out," she gently reminds the volunteer.

The volunteers and staff from USC, the Los Angeles Fire Department and Core Laboratories prepared enough doses to vaccinate around 2,000 residents on Friday and they plan to increase capacity each day after.

Local health officials are holding the vaccination syringes in coolers after they leave the air-conditioned trailers. The coolers are then covered in ice packs and wheeled on carts to clinicians administering shots to health care workers and nursing home staff eligible under the state's vaccination plan.

"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible," said mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the plan.

Health officials around the world are racing against time as the virus mutates and poses greater dangers.

"We have a little bit of borrowed time here right now because these variants are not here in great numbers from what we can tell," said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor in clinical pathology at USC's Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Curbing the spread of the virus is a vital way to prevent mutant strains from developing, she said.

Mirzaian, who arrived at the site before it opened at 8 a.m., said that there were logistical challenges as volunteers scrambled to assemble what will likely be the hub of the region's vaccination efforts.

"It's challenging to make sure that everyone knows what the process is and what we're doing and what to tell the patients who receive the vaccines."

After a few hours, the procedure moved quicker.

Residents have to show identification and proof of employment before they're taken through a list of pre-screening questions and given the vaccine through their car window. They're required to then wait for 15 minutes while clinicians monitor them for side effects.

Mirzaian said the process took each car about an hour. While eligible residents can walk-in for vaccinations, she recommends they make appointments so that enough doses are made available each day.

"As long as people have their appointments, they will get in," she said. "We are ready. We are like an army ready to give vaccines."

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