Los Angeles County is ordering nonessential businesses to close to the public and for residents to stop gathering outside of the home as it hustles to stop the community spread of the novel coronavirus.
The order, which initially applied to nonessential retailers and to gatherings of 10 or more people, was strengthened on Saturday. Under the revised order, businesses deemed nonessential can continue operating, but employees must telecommute.
In announcing the “safer-at-home” order Thursday, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger implored residents “not to panic.” She said residents can still go for walks and shop for groceries and pick up medicine.
It “does not mean restrictions from going outside,” Barger said. “It does not mean isolation.”
That holds true. But those who get outside must practice social distancing, Los Angeles Eric Garcetti implored residents on Sunday night. He said that over the weekend, after the order was announced, he saw too many people packed in at beaches and on trails.
“This is serious: six feet matters,” he said, referring to the distance that health experts say needs to be maintained between people. “There is no exception to this rule.”
The cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Pasadena have announced similar orders to the county’s. (View a fact sheet on the city of Los Angeles order here). The orders are set to expire April 19, but may be extended.
Under LA’s revised order, all “nonessential” businesses, including indoor malls, must close, along with playgrounds. All gatherings outside of the home are prohibited. The county had already ordered the closure of bars, movie theaters, gyms, and entertainment venues. Restaurants must remain take-out only.
Grocery stores, healthcare providers, outdoor farmers markets, gas stations, and dry cleaners can stay open. News media, food delivery companies, electricians, plumbers, healthcare operators, and transportation services are allowed to keep operating. But they all must institute social distancing practices, according to Los Angeles County Health Department director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
“This order does not prohibit any individual or family from engaging in outdoor activities... such as hiking, walking, biking, or shopping at essential businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants offering delivery, drive thru or carry out services, so long as all persons practice social distancing to the extent possible,” the order reads.
LA County residents had already been urged to hunker down. But officials had, until Thursday night, not gone so far as to mandate it.
Health orders are legally-binding, meaning violators can be cited for a misdemeanor. But officials said they would take a “light touch” to enforcement and are asking residents to self-comply for the health and safety of the entire community.
“This is not a request—this is an order,” said Garcetti. “There are too many people who were in work situations, retail situations, where they were coming into contact [with potential carriers.]”
Garcetti stressed that the order is not a “shelter-in-place” directive and is not a lockdown, those are terms, he said, that should be reserved for incidents like school shootings.
It was issued hours after the public health department announced a second death and 40 new cases of COVID-19. As of today, the number of cases in Los Angeles County stands at 409. Five people have died.
“I know how stressful this is to each one of us... we’re about to enter into a new way of living in Los Angeles for a period,” the mayor said, noting that he made the decision with a “heavy heart.”