UPDATED Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti embarked on his second round of damage control after reigniting a controversy sparked yesterday by comments from the county’s Public Health Director. Garcetti walked back her comments yesterday, then made his own controversial comments on GMA today.
Hours later on Wednesday, Garcetti faced the media in his daily coronavirus briefing. The mayor did not directly address his GMA comments. Rather, he tried to strike an upbeat tone, talking about reopenings and childcare for healthcare workers. He sent “light and hope” to residents.
But the mayor did address some of the darker concerns expressed by L.A. residents over the past couple days.
“I don’t want to turn Los Angeles into some sort of police state,” he said in response to questions about businesses defying the stay-at-home order. Garcetti said his preference was for educating people.
In his Q and A session, a member of the media asked when facemasks went from being a recommendation to a requirement.
“It wasn’t just stern advice before. It was always a mandate,” said Garcetti. “I’m proud that L.A. led that movement in this country. We’re requiring all people…to wear face masks when you’re around other people you don’t live with.”
“This isn’t about government doing something to us,” said the mayor. “This is about collective decisions.”
And, reminded Garcetti, “One percent of people can screw this up for everybody else.”
Garcetti promised that “there will never be a full lockdown.” Reopening, he said, is “a process. It’s not about a date certain.”
Another reporter then asked, “When can we feel good about the numbers?”
Garcetti responded that he would like to see “14 days of stable or decreasing deaths,” hospital capacity well under what the current demand is and ample testing bandwidth.
The city “can’t jump too far ahead,” he said.
Asked about the fiscal impact of the coronavirus toward the end of the summer, the mayor admitted, “It’s bad, simply put.”
Garcetti said that both Democratic and Republican mayors are struggling with shortfalls. “All mayors are feeling it,” he said. “This is universal.”
Modifications to property tax rules to help cash-strapped residents will mean an unexpected, $90 million hole in the city budget, he said. And Garcetti made it clear that that was just one example.
At the end of his prepared remarks, the mayor tried to return to an upbeat tone.
“As always,” he said, “I send you light and love from the bottom of my heart.”
“Be hopeful,” Garcetti encouraged, “and when you need someone, we will be here”
PREVIOUSLY 3:15 PM After he spent all yesterday walking back comments by the L.A. County Public Health Director, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti waded right back into controversy today.
In an interview about L.A.’s coronavirus efforts on Good Morning America on Wednesday, the mayor asserted that the city will “never be completely open until we have a cure.”
When might we have a vaccine?
Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Senate on Tuesday that a vaccine would not be ready before school starts in the fall. He said a more likely timeline for such a breakthrough would be within a year or two.
“I think we have to all recognize that we’re not moving beyond COVID-19, we’re learning to live with it,” said Garcetti on Wednesday.
With regard to wearing face masks, physical distancing and staying at home whenever possible, Garcetti said, “We can’t expect that to disappear in a matter of weeks, or even a few months.”
That sounded a lot like controversial comments by Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer yesterday.
“I do think recovery will be months-long,” Ferrer said on Tuesday, “based on the tools we have at hand today.”
She stressed that, “with all certainty,” the stay-at-home order set to expire at the end of this week will be expanded all the way to August.
Ferrer issued a clarification on Tuesday and then apologized for those remarks on Wednesday after a furor erupted.
Mayor Garcetti, for his part, went on CNN twice yesterday to address the controversy caused by Dr. Ferrer’s statements.
Today might have been one interview too many.
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