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Despite Looming Threat, Los Angeles County Officials Say No Lockdown This Week

County’s health director said if numbers hold up, then LA won’t return to a stay-at-home order

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

At a press conference this afternoon, LA County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer was asked if another shelter-in-place order would happen this week. Dr. Ferrer responded, “We have no anticipation this week of ordering a complete shutdown like we had in March.”

Now that California leads the U.S. in COVID-19 infections and deaths, LA residents have been asking the same question throughout July. The state’s increasing and current coronavirus case count of 409,000 helped spark rumors over whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom would rollback the state’s reopening to shelter-in-place. Los Angeles is also the nation’s current epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with 3,266 infections, 64 deaths, and 2,207 hospitalizations reported in a single day.

During today’s press conference, officials outlined the numbers and Dr. Ferrer noted that some statistics are positive during this troubling period. “There are a few key numbers that we’re tracking,” said Dr. Ferrer. “One is cases and the positivity rate that goes along with those cases. So we need to make sure that we’re not continuing to see a steep increase in the positivity rate. And we’re not right now. That’s why we feel hopeful. We actually see that we’ve leveled off, we’ve leveled off at a higher number of new cases a day than we’d like to see, but we do a lot of testing here as well. The issue is not to continue see the steep increases that got us to where we are right now.”

Ferrer continued: “The second number that we look at is what’s going on with hospitalizations. We had a lot of increase in daily hospitalizations. That can’t go on indefinitely without it causing problems, problems in terms of making sure we have available beds, but just as importantly, that we have available beds in the ICU units and available ventilators. It again looks like that number...has stabilized. So those are positive pieces of news for us. It is what helps us retain some hope that we are getting back to what we need to do in order to slow the spread.”

Gov. Newsom and county officials cleared Southern California counties for restaurant dining room reopenings in late-May, with strict protocols on how to maintain safe distances for diners and employees. Those were rolled back on July 1 for a three week period, though officials haven’t allowed restaurants to allow indoor dining despite that period ending yesterday. Even restaurants have found it difficult to keep employees healthy, including Bub & Grandma’s Bakery, who scrapped its reopening plans this week in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Ferrer also noted that there is a slight increase in LA’s COVID-19 death rate, which is a concern. She also emphasized that any shutdown decision is made by coordinating with state and city officials, and other government agencies.