California is trying to curb the outbreak of COVID-19, or coronavirus, with Los Angeles ordering most retailers and businesses in the region to close through April 19, along with a state-wide “safer at home” order for citizens.
L.A. County and city officials said Thursday evening that all “non-essential” retail and business must close, and simultaneously banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Officials dubbed the order “safer at home,” a softer version of the “shelter in place” mandate affecting 17 counties in Northern California, including the San Francisco Bay Area. L.A. County has 10 million residents and includes the city of L.A., as well as major cities Long Beach, Pasadena and Santa Monica. The order is also much like those earlier enacted in Europe.
L.A. City Supervisor Kathryn Barger said on Twitter that the mandate “will not be forever,” but admitted a four week ban will be difficult for some businesses to overcome. Using the term “safer at home,” “emphasizes the importance of social distancing,” she added. Effective “social distancing” is keeping at least six feet apart from people in public, according to public health officials.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti used stronger language in describing “safer at home,” saying residents should “immediately limit all movement outside of their homes beyond what is absolutely essential.” Although under the order, people can still walk outside, take public transit and drive and receive goods and services from essential businesses, it seems similar to the “shelter in place” orders in effect elsewhere in the state. The financial impact on such limitations to business and consumers is expected to be huge, for California and the world over, but the closure of retail business alone in the state could take $60 billion or more from the economy.
Most retailers and businesses in L.A. had already closed this week, but there has been the odd picture framer and small liquor store open. Now, all but those selling food and vital services will have to close. Stores that can remain open include: grocers, food banks and farmer’s markets; businesses offering service to the economically disadvantaged; gas stations, banks and financial institutions; hardware stores, plumbers and electricians; and of course, healthcare operations, along with public transportation services.
But part of the order mandating social distancing included new hygiene requirements for businesses allowed to remain open, like either providing hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol or a place for hand washing.
The move comes after L.A. saw a day-over-day increase in confirmed cases of coronavirus to 230 from 40, as testing for the virus is just starting to become more available. There are so far only two deaths in L.A. related to the virus.
In a press conference Thursday night, after L.A. County officials did the same, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered “safer at home” measures on a state level, with no deadline of when they will lift. On Thursday, Newsom asked the White House for $1 billion in federal funds to help fight what he said could turn into a serious outbreak in the state, with the worst projections seeing more than half of California’s 40 million people falling ill. In a Thursday letter to President Donald Trump, Newsom asked that a federal hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, be stationed in the Port of Los Angeles through September 1 as part of the state’s preparedness for dealing with more sick patients than state hospitals can hold and care for.
“Expanding this statewide makes sense,” Newsom said during a press conference, noting than more than 20 counties representing as many millions of people have already ordered something similar to “safer at home.” “To the extent this directive is open-ended, it’s because we can’t give you a deadline we really believe in. We could say two weeks, but we don’t know. We want to get the curve down, that’s why it’s an order without a specific deadline. But we’ll be forthright with you in the coming days and weeks.”
California as a whole has just under 900 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 17 related deaths, as of Wednesday. Another roughly 12,000 people in the state are self-monitoring based on symptoms, officials have said.
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