The U.S. Department of Justice Friday sent a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and county’s director of public health with concerns over comments about the Safer at Home orders.
The letter warned Garcetti and Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County’s director of public health, that their approach to the Safer at Home orders may be “arbitrary and heavy handed.”
Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the department’s Civil Rights Division, cited statements made by Garcetti and Ferrer.
“Reports of your recent public statements indicate that you suggested the possibility of long-term lockdown of the residents in the city and county of Los Angeles regardless of the legal justification for such restrictions,” Dreiband wrote.
“Any such approach may be both arbitrary and unlawful.”
Garcetti responded to the letter Friday night during his coronavirus briefing telling reporters Los Angeles would not be guided by politics in responding to COVID-19.
“We are guided by science. We are guided by collaboration,” Garcetti said. “There’s no games, there’s nothing else going on, and that’s the way we’re going to continue to safely open.”
Garcetti said he would “leave it up” to reporters to judge whether the letter was driven by politics.
When asked by reporters about any legal action that the Department of Justice may take against the city regarding its emergency laws, Garcetti said he’s bound by state and county law to adhere to their COVID-19 guidelines.
“There’s no city in the world that right now doesn’t have some sort of orders and restrictions because we know this virus kills,” Garcetti said.
The letter cited Ferrer’s statement from May 12 that a form of stay-at-home restrictions will remain in Los Angeles County “for the next three months” unless a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed.
Dreiband also cited Garcetti’s May 13 comment that Los Angeles would “never be completely open until we have a cure” for COVID-19.
“More recently, Mayor Garcetti clarified some of these comments. However, we remain concerned about what may be an arbitrary and heavy-handed approach to continuing stay-at-home requirements,” the DOJ letter stated.
Garcetti issued the Safer at Home order on March 19 and has since extended it twice.
The city and county have, however, relaxed some of those restrictions, including allowing small retail shops to reopen for curbside pickup and golf courses, beaches and hiking trails have reopened under limited capacities.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, on Friday identified the Los Angeles metropolitan area as a region of concern because of the continuing high number of COVID-19 reported cases.
Birx also said Washington, D.C. and Chicago have had high numbers of cases, and called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to work with the areas to study where the cases are coming from and to find a way to prevent them.
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