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LA County Plans Targeted Safer-at-Home Order as Daily Coronavirus Cases Soar

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Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that the county’s numbers, spurred by large public gatherings, are among the worst yet during the pandemic — so a requirement to stay inside could be coming

Latinos For Trump Rally In Los Angeles
At a pro-Trump rally in Woodland Hills last month, few people wore masks
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Los Angeles County government and public health officials are set to announce details of a proposed new stay-at-home order for residents tomorrow, meaning a return to the sort of early pandemic lockdowns not seen since March and April of this year. While any new or modified public health order has yet to be made official, county public health director Dr. Ferrer noted in a media-only press conference on November 23 that the current case rates justify a move toward more restrictive measures, including a possible mandate that all non-essential workers remain in their homes for at least the next three weeks.

Just today, Los Angeles County recorded 6,124 new cases, raising the five-day average to more than 4,500 cases — the previously stated threshold for a new “targeted” safer-at-home order. Those specific targets are set to be discussed at the LA County Board of Supervisors meeting tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. “We don’t have a list of what those additional safety modifications would be,” Dr. Ferrer said when asked for specifics, “because we’re going to talk with our board about what would be a good path forward for our county.”

“There was agreement” between public health officials and county officials last week, Barger said, “that at 4,500 cases over a five day period we would issue a targeted safer-at-home order,” a number that was met and surpassed today. “The question now that we’ll be working with the board on is what additional measures will need to be in there.” She later added that she is “not confident that our numbers will decease this week” from that new threshold, citing a “distressing increase” in hospitalizations, which have jumped 61 percent in the past month.

Dr. Ferrer’s office has also previously announced the closure of all onsite dining at restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries across the county, set to go into effect this Wednesday, November 25 at 10 p.m. The decision has rankled proponents of outdoor restaurant dining — touted earlier this year by mayor Eric Garcetti as a safe, sustainable way to support small businesses — who say that it does not carry the same sort of risks as other activities.

Compliance checks by sector in LA County in November
Compliance checks by sector in LA County in November 2020
LA County Health Department

Dr. Ferrer countered in the meeting today that some 20 percent of restaurants have been found to not be in compliance with physical distancing guidelines, and that restaurants have been fined for non-compliance more than any other type of business since fines went into effect on November 1. She added:

When outdoor dining was open during the summer months, we were able to get our cases to go down. We had a lot of other sectors that weren’t open yet, so it may be possible that we are going to have to do additional modifications so that we can continue to see new additional, steeper declines. We’ve never seen a rate of increase as high as we’ve just seen. We know that places where people are gathering without wearing face coverings are easiest and most likely” sources of spread.

Dr. Ferrer has also pushed back on further calls for reduced public transmission efforts, particularly a local mask mandate, saying that “our partners at law enforcement have indicated it’s extraordinarily hard to” enforce. The full details and implementation of any targeted stay-at-home order is scheduled to be discussed as part of the county board of supervisors meeting on November 24, with a roll-out of the mandate to take effect shortly after — possibly before the long holiday weekend when many may be gathering with people outside of their household, despite pleas not to from public health officials.

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