LA County Stay-at-Home Orders Will Likely Continue Until August

A man walks his dog past the closed entrance to Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on April 15. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Angelenos will likely have to endure another three months at home after the Los Angeles County public health director said Tuesday that stay-at-home orders will “with all certainty” be extended through the end of July.

Despite entering the second stage of relaxing health orders last week — hiking trails, some retail businesses and golf courses were allowed to reopen in the county with social distancing and face masks mandatory — the novel coronavirus continues its stubborn hold on the LA area. As of Monday, over 32,000 Angelenos have been infected with the Covid-19 virus and over 1,500 have died from it.

Public Health director Barbara Ferrer told the LA County Board of Supervisors that the stay-at-home order would “with all certainty” be extended through July.

The current health order is only in effect until May 15, but Ferrer said the order can’t be lifted until there’s a new means to treat the virus.

“Our hope is that by using the data we would be able to slowly lift the restrictions over the next three months,” said Ferrer.

Ferrer said in a statement the county will follow a 5-stage roadmap to recovery but could only relax its health order with “the public’s continued compliance” with social distancing and other health guidelines.

“While the City’s Safer at Home order will remain in place beyond May 15, we will also continue to adjust the order gradually — to safely allow more activities, more businesses to operate, and more Angelenos to get back to work,” LA City Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement Tuesday evening.

The daily death toll in LA County continues to hover in the double digits, with 45 reported Tuesday. As more testing is done the rate of infection also rises — public health officials reported 951 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Another victim of the pandemic is the California State University system’s fall semester, which chancellor Timothy White said Tuesday will be conducted entirely online.

White said it “wasn’t in the cards” to have classes resume as they did earlier this year before the stay-at-home orders impacted every corner of daily life.

The decision affects the 23 Cal State campuses that stretch across the state from Humboldt to San Diego.

“Our university, when open without restrictions and fully in person, as is the traditional norm of the past, is a place where over 500,000 people come together in close and vibrant proximity with each other on a daily basis,” White said during a virtual meeting with the CSU board of trustees on Tuesday.

Classes in which students need to access lab equipment or complete their training to enter the health care field will still be held on campus, White said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the rest of California is seeing health orders relaxed by varying degrees, depending on the county and the number of cases and deaths locally.

After a slow start in March and April, California’s testing capacity continues to increase as the state has now tested over 1 million people for the coronavirus. Governor Gavin Newsom said 41,000 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours and the state is working toward a goal of 61,000 per day.

“We have been underperforming as a nation and as a state to provide adequate testing for all that seek it and all that need it,” Newsom said during a press briefing. “We pushed the reset button, put together a new team and we approached the challenge quite differently.”

The state has tried to address so-called “testing deserts” by teaming with the private sector to open testing sites in rural and underserved minority communities. Newsom told reporters 76 rural sites have been opened with another 10 coming soon in places like Mendocino and Lake counties.

Newsom remains adamant that enhanced testing and contact tracing will be necessary if the state is to fully reopen, and as a result regulators will begin allowing private pharmacies to offer coronavirus testing.

Though 77 more people died overnight — bringing the state’s death toll to 2,847 — and hospitalizations and new cases increased, Newsom on Tuesday relaxed the statewide order to allow shopping malls, dog groomers, car washes and office buildings to reopen in limited fashion. Newsom estimated 70% of the state’s economy has reopened with some sort of modifications.

Furthermore, Newsom said public health officials have approved Butte and El Dorado counties’ reopening plans and will be allowed to exceed the statewide shelter-in-place order and allow restaurants to reopen. Churches, gyms, casinos, nightclubs and most museums must remain shuttered even for the counties granted more wiggle room. 

The state recommends restaurants to screen diners, encourage masks, use disposable menus, shun the sharing of condiments and have patrons wait in their cars to be seated.

After a week of grim estimates pegging the state’s looming deficit anywhere from $18 to $54 billion, Newsom is slated to reveal an updated budget proposal Thursday. The so-called “May Revise” signals the final stage of budget negotiations between the governor and the Legislature, which must approve a budget bill by majority vote no later than June 15.

With the state Senate reconvening this week at the state Capitol, the majority Democratic caucus on Tuesday introduced a pair of budget priorities intended to help down-and-out renters and jumpstart social service programs.

According to Senate President Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, the first proposal would allow tenants to repay overdue rents without interest over a 10-year period. In exchange, participating landlords who agree not to evict tenants could apply for tax credits equal to the value of the lost rent.

The Democrats also want to create an ambitious $25 billion program that would allow any taxpayer to pay a decade’s worth of income taxes early at a lower rate. They claim the inventive cash infusion would fill the state’s empty coffers and ensure California could offer businesses, schools and other sectors with recession relief.

“Our goal is to offer ideas for our state budget and economic recovery that take a responsible approach to planning for our state’s spending, while also keeping in mind the needs of Californians, millions of whom have been adversely impacted by the pandemic,” said Atkins. “This approach protects our state and communities by aiming to avoid major ongoing program cuts and not increasing broad-based taxes for middle-class Californians. We must do all we can to help heal our economy, while ensuring that our solutions do not create further harm.”

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