LA Mayor Garcetti calls for events of more than 50 people to be postponed or canceled amid coronavirus concerns

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti with public officials calls for events of more than 50 to be canceled due to coronavirus concerns in Los Angeles on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

City, county leaders also announce sweeping new steps to slow coronavirus spread and stem economic impact.

Los Angeles will take broad new steps to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and mitigate the economic impacts that are bound to be massive, city and county officials announced Thursday, March 12.

Mayor Eric Garcetti, at a press conference Thursday alongside county leaders and public health officials, recommended postponing or canceling events that attract more than 50 people. The city will also restrict travel by the city’s employees, among other measures. City Hall will close to all non-employees, he added.

“We are entering a critical period and I’m confident we will go through this together but it will require all of us making the right decision,” Garcetti said

“The coronavirus curve is steep. The question is how steep will that curve be,” the mayor added. “We know those folks who say this doesn’t apply to me, I’m healthy, I’m going to be fine. This doesn’t just apply to you.”  

Garcetti, who declared a local emergency March 4, made his announcement the morning after Gov. Gavin Newsom recommended all events with more than 250 people be cancelled or postponed.

The L.A. City Council, meanwhile, plans to pass a package of bills in coordination with the mayor to address the new coronavirus and the fallout from it, Councilman Herb Wesson said in his own statement Thursday morning.

The package will include a moratorium on rental evictions, mortgage foreclosures, and Department of Water and Power shutoffs; and providing financial assistance for small businesses and other temporary measures. The city also has a plan to put up more than 100 hand washing stations throughout the city especially to address people experiencing homelessness.

“The time has come to pull out all the stops,” Wesson said. “With so many folks living paycheck-to-paycheck, or relying on tips or gig work to pay their bills, we know there will be extra stress placed on Angelenos that many simply can’t afford.

“These common-sense measures will help us keep people in their homes,” he added, “and prevent the even greater public health crisis that mass evictions and foreclosures could create.”

City Councilman Mike Bonin said he supported the measures.

“The impacts of #COVID-19 threaten to be severe, causing sudden and sharp drops in income for many tenants, workers, and small businesses, and pushing many people into homelessness,” Bonin wrote on Twitter Thursday morning. “We cannot allow that.”

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents District 5, said at the press conference — at the county’s Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration — that the board would cancel its public meetings.

“These actions are not intended to create panic or fear,” she said. “Rather, it’s about mitigation and containment.”

Supervisor Hilda Solis, the District 1 representative, said the county would consider delaying property tax bills. Solis urged people to not panic and not to spread rumors. The county, she said at the press conference, was intentionally not sharing the location of people who have contracted the novel coronavirus.

This virus “does not discriminate,” Solis said, referring to potential racial discrimination.

The problem of how to control the spread of the coronavirus within a homeless population is a special challenge in Los Angeles, where an estimated nearly 59,000 people are homeless countywide, according to figures from the 2019 homeless count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. Within the city, there were roughly 36,000 people who were homelessness.

Public health officials and the mayor’s office have sought to address the issue since the first cases of coronavirus came to Los Angeles. But many of the directives related to slowing the spread of COVID-19 can be nearly impossible for the 44,000 people countywide who are unsheltered. With little access to hand-washing stations, shelter and medical care, the homeless population may be hit especially hard, public health officials have said.

COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2. Symptoms associated with the respiratory disease, which appear two-to-14 days after exposure, include fever, a cough and shortness of breath. While most people — including healthy young adults — will experience mild symptoms, the disease can be severe and possibly fatal for at-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with other health problems.

Globally, there have been 124,847 confirmed cases as of Thursday morning, according to the World Health Organization; 4,613 have died. WHO has defined the new coronavirus as a pandemic, as it has spread to 118 countries on every continent except Antartica.

On Wednesday, March 11, Los Angeles County Public Health officials announced the first death in Los Angeles County — a woman more than 60 years old — related to the novel coronavirus. The woman had an underlying health condition and had been travelling extensively and spent a layover in South Korea. The number of confirmed cases in L.A. County rose Wednesday afternoon to 29, including four in Long Beach and one in Pasadena. Both cities run their own health departments.

Wednesday also saw a wave of colleges and university’s cancel in-person classes. More events announced cancellations throughout the day, including the NCAA basketball tournament saying it would play games without fans. Then around 6 p.m., news came that actors Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson had contracted COVID-19 in Australia. President Donald Trump then announced a temporary travel ban to Europe, followed by news that the NBA would indefinitely suspend all games.

There have been 177 cases and three coronavirus-related deaths reported in the state as of Wednesday, according to the California Department of Public Health.

As of March 10, California Department of Health has reported 177 confirmed cases with 32 cases community acquired and at least three deaths in the state. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 938 total U.S. cases, including 29 deaths, in 38 states and Washington D.C., as of Wednesday.

The best way to stem the spread of COVID-19, according to health experts, is to stay home when someone feels sick. Practice good hygiene by washing hands and avoiding touching your face. For those who have underlying health conditions, the elderly or pregnant women, health officials advise to take extra precautions now and practice social distancing. The primary indications of the illness are shortness of breath and flu like symptoms.

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