Local health officials confirmed 16 more cases of coronavirus Sunday, bringing the county’s total to 69, as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said the city would comply with California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to close all bars, and officials prepared to use Dockweiler RV Park south of LAX as a quarantine zone.
Ten of the 69 cases are “likely due to community transmission,” the county health department said.
The cases announced Sunday include one with an unidentified source of exposure, three cases exposed during recent travel, two cases of health-care workers exposed in a health-care setting, four who had close contact with a confirmed case, and five that are pending more investigation.
The 16th case was previously reported Saturday by Long Beach officials, as that city has its own health department.
“We anticipate more cases and increased community spread as more testing occurs,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s public health director. “We are asking everyone to expect more social distancing requirements as more cases are identified. Please do not call 911 to request testing for COVID-19 and please do not go to our emergency rooms unless you are seriously ill and require emergency care.
“If you have respiratory illness and want to know if you should be tested for COVID-19, it is best to call your health care provider or, if you don’t have a provider, call 2-1-1 for help finding a clinician near you. Our healthcare providers are prepared to see more cases, but we must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to minimize strain on our healthcare system and other service providers.”
The health department will notify people who may have had close personal contact with the confirmed patients, to assess and monitor them for signs and symptoms of illness. All confirmed cases are being isolated and close contacts are quarantined, Ferrer said.
Newsom announced extraordinary measures at a Sunday news conference beyond just the bar closures. Restaurants were directed to reduce their capacity by roughly half, and all state residents older than 65 were told to self-quarantine in their homes.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti was supportive of the latest measures, and issued a statement Sunday reiterating the governor’s message.
“Everything we do right now will determine the outcome of this crisis, and we can save lives if we stay calm, care for one another, and take forceful steps to protect our communities,” Garcetti said in the statement. “That’s why we must follow the guidelines laid out by Gov. Newsom, build on them for local needs, and put the health and safety of the most vulnerable above all else. Los Angeles has weathered enormous challenges before, and our strength and resilience are this City’s most powerful assets.”
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said Sunday that his office was working with state officials and other mayors and would be releasing local guidance later related to bars, restaurants, and other state announcements.
Newsom also announced that six people in the state have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The number of those confirmed to have been infected in the state rose to 338 Sunday, a 14 percent increase form the prior day.
The restrictions on older Californians is due to the fact that they are the group most at-risk for the disease. Sunday’s order says that community members over the age of 65 should enter into a state of home isolation as they are a high-risk group.
When pressed about whether he was prepared to enforce the order, Newsom said he didn’t think it would come to that, and expressed confidence that the public, businesses and local governments would follow the directive.
The governor made it clear, however, that he has the authority to enforce the order if necessary.
Meanwhile, county officials are planning to use Dockweiler RV Park, an area on the beach just south of LAX, as a coronavirus isolation zone for people who are ordered to quarantine or isolate but are not sick enough to be hospitalized, especially those who are homeless or visiting the area with nowhere else to stay.
The area is under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles County, but on Sunday the nearby city of El Segundo warned the public not to go north of 12505 Vista Del Mar, where the Youth Center and Beach Cafe are located.
About 25 RVs have been set up, with 25 more being delivered each day and a plan to have all in place by Thursday, according to a bulletin sent to El Segundo city staff.
Beginning Monday, Los Angeles County will close all of its buildings, including libraries and museums because of the coronavirus, Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger said Sunday. County hospitals and clinics will remain open, she added. It’s not yet known how long the closures will remain in effect.
All criminal and civil trials in Los Angeles County will be suspended for the rest of the month effective Monday due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to an official Los Angeles Police Department memo obtained by CNN.
The order follows a request Friday by Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile of the Los Angeles County Superior Court system, who called for a 30-day delay of all new civil jury trials. He also said criminal jury trials should be pushed back by 30 days, in cases where the defendants have agreed to the delay.
The judge made it clear Friday that he did not have the authority to order such measures.
According to the CNN report, officials will re-examine the suspension decision before March 30.
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles said Sunday that a child in its care who was previously reported as a COVID-19 patient does not in fact have the virus.
“On March 13 and 14, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles performed two additional tests on a patient in its care who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 while being treated at a medical facility in Ventura County,” CHLA officials said. “The results from both CHLA tests came back negative. Ventura County Public Health performed a second test using the original sample and the results came back negative as well. CHLA believes the first Ventura County result was a false positive.
“The child is currently still in isolation and being treated for an unrelated underlying condition, for which team members are continuing the use of all precautions necessary for treatment.”