LA mayor suspends farmers markets, increases protections for tenants

Tribune Content Agency

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday a temporary suspension of all farmers markets, many of which have stayed open without restrictions during the coronavirus shutdowns.

Markets that wish to continue operating are required to submit a plan to ensure social distancing between customers.

“We want people to get access to food, but we can’t risk the spread of this disease,” Garcetti said.

The mayor also said landlords would not be allowed to increase the rent for hundreds of thousands of apartments in the city, in his latest effort to ease the financial hardship on Angelenos from the coronavirus outbreak.

The announcement covers about 624,000 apartments that fall under the city’s rent stabilization program, according to city statistics.

Garcetti’s action Monday increases protections for tenants, many of whom have rent due on April 1.

Garcetti said the Los Angeles Police Department on Monday visited 46 non-essential businesses that have resisted closing down. If those businesses continue to operate, they could face penalties, he said.

Los Angeles County officials on Monday confirmed seven new coronavirus-linked deaths, bringing the death toll to 44.

Six of the victims were 65 or older, and one was between the ages of 41 and 65, county Public Health Department director Barbara Ferrer said.

Ferrer announced an additional 342 cases of the virus in the county, bringing the total to 2,474. That count includes individuals who have recovered from COVID-19, a number that officials are working to accurately track.

More than 15,500 people have been tested for the coronavirus in the county, with 12% showing positive.

“Although our numbers continually rise, we have to assume there are others infected,” Ferrer said.

Officials are investigating cases at 25 institutions in the county, including 18 nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities. Eleven of those locations have three or more coronavirus cases, which Ferrer said is the mark of an outbreak.

Within the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department, four employees and one inmate have tested positive for coronavirus, according to L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Test results take five to six days on average, Ferrer said, calling this week an important time frame to assess whether cases double or triple.

“Those are the numbers needed to more accurately predict what the peak will be,” she said.

California’s death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 130, with officials warning of tough weeks ahead as the number of confirmed cases continues to surge.

A new death was reported Monday morning by San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. Details about the individual who died were not immediately available.

In order to assist with the growing number of cases in the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that his administration is launching the California Health Corps initiative, asking recent retirees and health care students nearing graduation to join the state’s efforts to combat the virus.

Over the past four days, the number of intensive care patients in the state has tripled — from 200 to 597 — and the number of hospitalizations has nearly doubled, from 746 to 1,432.

Newsom said that 32.6 million N95 masks have been distributed throughout California and that the state is working to obtain 10,000 additional ventilators. The Army Corps of Engineers is looking at several sites to house an additional 50,000 hospital beds.

“Still, more needs to be done,” the governor said.

In Orange County, the number of cases hit 464 Monday. The number of confirmed cases has more than tripled in a week. Currently, the cities of Anaheim, Irvine and Newport Beach have 126 confirmed cases among them — one more than the entire county had only a week ago.

Two men and two women have died. Three of the victims were at least 65, and one was between the age of 45 and 64, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

So far, 5,522 people have been tested countywide.

There are currently more than 6,500 confirmed cases of the virus in the state.

Experts say California will likely continue to see a rise in new cases and deaths for the next few weeks as testing capacity increases but hope that the social distancing measures imposed can slow the spread.

The California Department of Public Health announced Monday that it would no longer collect information about how residents might have contracted the virus.

“Community transmission of COVID-19 has been identified in California since late February, and since early March, most of the confirmed cases in the state were not related to travel outside of the United States,” the state agency said in a statement.

Health officers in several San Francisco Bay Area counties will extend their stay-at-home order until at least May 1. At a news conference Monday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said more people seemed to adhere to the order over the weekend. There are 374 COVID-19 cases in San Francisco, and six people have died of the virus.

The biggest immediate concern as the virus continues to spread is for hospitals, which risk being overwhelmed by a growing number of sick patients.

Breed said that at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center operated by the San Francisco Department of Public Health with space for about 780 residents, nine employees and two patients have tested positive. Infection control nurses from the state and infection control physicians and epidemiologists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been sent to help deal with the outbreak, officials said.

To prepare for a surge in coronavirus patients, medical cots and equipment are being delivered to the San Mateo Event Center in the Bay Area.

Deliveries began Sunday, and the National Guard is expected be at the center through Tuesday to set up the equipment. The federal treatment site can house 250 patients with mild symptoms.

“The latest projections estimate that a medical surge could push the hospitals in our county to capacity and we’ll need another location to house patients requiring particular levels of care,” County Manager Mike Callagy said. “We can’t just wait to see if this will happen.”

A Los Angeles Times data analysis found that California had 7,200 intensive-care beds across more than 365 hospitals. In total, the state has more than 70,000 beds. There is roughly one intensive-care bed for every 5,500 people in California, Times data show.

About half of California’s total intensive-care beds — 3,700 — are in the five-county area around Los Angeles, according to data from 2018, the most recent available. In the nine-county Bay Area, there are roughly 1,400 ICU beds for a population of 7.6 million people.

Intensive-care beds allow for a higher level of treatment than regular beds, a level of care some COVID-19 patients require. Those unable to breathe properly may need a breathing tube and to be hooked up to a ventilator, which physically pushes oxygen into the lungs.

Although a system overload remained the fear, one projection from University of Washington epidemiologists suggested that California’s 9-day-old stay-at-home order might keep the hospital strain below catastrophic levels. And Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a University of California, Los Angeles epidemiologist, said Friday that after a considerable uptick in cases, “I think we should be able to see some leveling off of those numbers in a couple of weeks because of the physical distancing measures.”

UC Berkeley biostatistics professor Nicholas Jewell says California will soon learn whether its limits on work and public movement have paid dividends.

Because of a lag time of as much as two weeks between transmission of the illness and the onset of symptoms, gauging the benefits of physical distancing takes time. With California’s stay-at-home order less than two weeks old, people reporting the illness may have been infected prior to the limitations.

“We need another week or two to really tell if California’s fairly quick shelter in place did make a difference,” Jewell said. “It has the potential to make a huge difference. I know that mathematically … but I don’t know that with any degree of certainty.”

Authorities were out in force over the weekend to make sure people were staying away from beaches, parks and hiking trails that were recently closed as part of unprecedented restrictions on public movements to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Many people obeyed the closures. One man, however, received a $1,000 citation for surfing in Manhattan Beach on Saturday after he ignored numerous warnings by police and lifeguards cautioning him not to go in the water.

A Ventura County Sheriff’s Department cruiser could be seen guarding the entrance to a popular trail in Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, where hundreds of hikers and families descended Saturday. In Venice, an LAPD helicopter was seen circling a skate park, announcing that people who did not leave the area would be “arrested for trespassing.”

On Sunday, officials confirmed that two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department deputies and two firefighters had tested positive for COVID-19. San Bernardino County had recorded 111 cases of the virus and three deaths as of Monday morning. In Orange County, 431 cases of the virus have been reported, including four who died.

An inmate and four Los Angeles County jails employees have also tested positive for the coronavirus, heightening fears that the disease could spread quickly in the overcrowded jail system.

On Monday, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner confirmed the first case of the virus in a district employee. The infection was reported to officials last week.

“Unfortunately as the virus spreads throughout the communities we serve, we know this will not be the only employee or member of our school community who is diagnosed with the virus,” Beutner said.

The U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy, which docked at the Port of Los Angeles on Friday, has begun receiving patients. The boat is operated by naval medical and support staff from 22 commands, along with 70 civil mariners, who will treat patients who don’t have COVID-19 in order to help reduce the strain on the hospital system.

There were three patients aboard the ship as of Sunday afternoon.

“The men and women embarked on board Mercy are energized, eager and ready to provide relief to those in need,” said Capt. John Rotruck, Mercy’s Military Treatment Facility commanding officer, in a news release.


(Times staff writers Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money, Liam Dillon and Richard Winton contributed to this report.)


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