Another 10,528 new coronavirus cases were reported Sunday, marking the fifth time in six days that a new record was set in LA County.
By Kat Schuster, Patch Staff
LOS ANGELES, CA — Los Angeles County shattered its daily record of coronavirus cases yet again Sunday. Another 10,528 infections were reported, setting a new record for the fifth time in the past six days.
The county reported that 23 more COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the county’s totals to 449,851 cases and 7,909 fatalities. The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus, already at an all-time high, rose from 2,769 on Saturday to 2,855.
The grim milestones came just hours away from the onset of sweeping new health restrictions for the entire Southern California region that officials hope will stem the rapidly increasing number of hospitalizations and prevent intensive care units from being stretched to the breaking point.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “regional stay-at-home” comes down at 11:59 p.m. Sunday and was triggered when intensive-care unit bed availability dropped below 15 percent in the 11-county Southern California region, according to the California Department of Public Health.
The entire region’s available ICU capacity was 10.3 percent on Sunday, down from 12.5 percent Saturday and 13.1 percent Friday.
The Southern California region consists of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial, Inyo, Mono, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
The stay-at-home order will be in place for three weeks and will bar gatherings of people from different households. Regions will be eligible to exit from the order on Dec. 28 if ICU capacity projections for the following month are above or equal to 15 percent.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, acknowledging the mental health toll the pandemic has brought, suggested Angelenos “call a friend or family member to check on them. Connect virtually with the people you love.”
“Go for a walk or a bike ride, keeping a safe distance from others,” Garcetti tweeted Saturday. “We will get through this.”
Many business sectors will be forced to close across Southern California, but unlike more stringent orders issued in spring, public health officials are encouraging Californians to enjoy outdoor recreation.
“Members of the same household are encouraged to maintain physical and mental health by safely going to a park, a beach, hike, walk, or bike ride with members of their own household,” according to California’s website.
Under the order, the following businesses/recreational facilities will be forced to close:
— indoor and outdoor playgrounds;
— indoor recreational facilities;
— hair salons and barbershops;
— personal care services;
— museums, zoos, and aquariums;
— movie theaters;
— bars, breweries and distilleries;
— family entertainment centers;
— cardrooms and satellite wagering;
— limited services;
— live audience sports; and
— amusement parks.
Schools with waivers will be able to stay open, along with “critical infrastructure” and retail stores, which will be limited to 20 percent of capacity.
Restaurants are mandated to close all dine-in operations even if they were outdoor.
Hotels are allowed to open “for critical infrastructure support only,” while churches would be restricted to outdoor only services. Entertainment production — including professional sports —would be allowed to continue without live audiences.
Many living in Southern California have already been living under such restrictions as Los Angeles County barred in-person dining Thanksgiving week to combat an alarming rate of community spread seen in the Southland.
“This week, almost 49,000 people tested positive for COVID-19,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Saturday. “We can anticipate based on our experience, that 10 percent of newly infected individuals are likely to require hospital care a couple of weeks from now. That translates to close to 5,000 patients, and if even 20% of these patients need care in the ICU, they will require 1,000 staffed ICU beds. This is our likely reality in two weeks.”
Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said the county’s Health Officer Order will be modified to align with the State Regional Stay Home Order to prevent crowding and mingling among non-household members and overwhelming the local health care system.
Although county officials can issue citations to business that defy the order, it remains to be seen exactly how state officials will enforce the restrictions on residents.
Some law enforcement agencies spoke out against the statewide curfew that went into effect in November.
In Riverside County, Sheriff Chad Bianco decried Newsom’s approach to handling the statewide restrictions as the state governor warned Thursday that he would withhold funding from counties that decide not to follow the orders. That funding could be redirected to counties that did follow the new health guidelines.
“Ironically, it wasn’t that long ago that our same governor loudly and publicly argued how wrong it was for the president of the United States to withhold federal funding from states not complying with federal laws,” Bianco said in a YouTube video released Friday. “The dictatorial attitude toward California residents while dining in luxury, traveling, keeping his business open and sending his kids to in-person private schools is very telling about his attitude toward California residents, his feelings about the virus, and it is extremely hypocritical.”
Bianco further announced that his deputies would not be enforcing the order.
Newsom said the new order is “fundamentally predicated on the need to stop gathering with people outside of your household, to do what you can to keep most of your activities outside and, of course, always … wear face coverings, wear a mask.”
The governor also noted that the state still has a travel advisory in place recommending against non-essential travel and urging people to quarantine when they return to the state.
Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, acknowledged there is no real mechanism for enforcing such a travel restriction, but the state will rely on public cooperation.
“We believe that really emphasizing this is what we hope our citizens will do because their communities are at particularly high risk, their hospitals are having difficulty keeping available ICU beds open, that people will restrict their travel statewide,” he said.
The San Joaquin Valley will also enter the new shutdown protocol Sunday night, as its ICU capacity dropped to 8.6% on Saturday.
California has grouped its counties into five regions: The Bay Area, the Greater Sacramento Region, Northern California, the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
Meanwhile, the first in what organizers said will be weekly lockdown protests was scheduled to be held outside Garcetti’s official residence at 6 p.m. Sunday. Protesters plan to shine flashlights directly into the sky to send a worldwide signal that lockdowns are not acceptable.
The City News Service and Patch staffer Kat Schuster contributed to this report.