Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Orders Will “Remain In Place” & Be “Gradually Relaxed,” LA County Public Health Boss Says As Pols Scramble & Confuse – Update

Deadline/Dominic Patten

UPDATE, 6:03 PM: If Los Angeles County officials and City of Angels Mayor Eric Garcetti wanted to clear up the continuing confusion around the region’s stay-at-home order possibly extending into the summer, they only seemed to make matters worse as the day went on.

With news releases, cable news appearances and more statements, the two levels of government did little to clarify the remarks earlier Tuesday by County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer that with all certainty, the stay-at home order set to expire on May 15 will be expanded all the way to August.”

After already calling into CNN to avert a self-described “panic” over the strict restrictions staying in place, Garcetti went on the WarnerMedia-owned news cabler again later this afternoon to say “it’s important not to overreact…to not freak out.” Likely having the opposite effect of his words, the media friendly Mayor then added, “our compliance with these orders helps us take steps forward.”

Just now, Mayor Garcetti muddied the waters more on how long the stay-at-home orders will be in place with yet another response to Dr. Ferrer’s comments from this morning.

“While the City’s Safer at Home order will remain in place beyond May 15, we will also continue to adjust the order gradually — to safely allow more activities, more businesses to operate, and more Angelenos to get back to work,” his Honor revealed in yet another statement put out at 5:51 PM PT. “We’re not moving past COVID-19, we’re learning to live with it — and we will keep taking measured steps toward a new, safer reality in the days and weeks ahead,” Garcetti stressed with language he has partially used before.

Also this afternoon, County Supervisor chair Kathryn Barger put out a statement saying that Dr. Ferrer’s pretty clear comments before the powerful Board of Supervisors were “taken out of context”, though how exactly she didn’t make clear.

“Relaxing the restrictions in the Safer-At-Home order is an important focus for the county, which will be done gradually over the next few months, Supervisor Barger said. “I am eager to reopen more of L.A. County as soon as it’s safe to do so, in collaboration with our health experts, community leaders, businesses and residents, with best practices in place to ensure our overall health and well-being.”

If the confusion wasn’t apparent enough to all, both the County and the Mayor didn’t conduct their regular COVID-19 update briefings this afternoon.

The fact that there are yet again ever rising cases of coronavirus, and now more than 1,610 deaths that have occurred in the Country from the condition, should have made appearances before the public a civic duty. However, add to that the fact that Tuesday saw Gov. Gavin Newsom further expand his so-called Phase 2 reopening with restaurants, bars, pubs and similar establishments throughout the state able to offer dine-in service for the first time in nearly two months. That’s a very big deal in hospitality heavy L.A., where thousands in the dining industry have been out of work since March. Yet, nada from the politicians.

Then if avoidance around an actual timeline hadn’t become enough of a group sport, a press release came from Dr. Ferrer that “clarifies her remarks at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting related to extension of health officer orders” – at least in theory.

“L.A. County is continuing its progress on the road to recovery, with planned reopening of beaches for active recreation and an expansion of permitted retail activities coming tomorrow,” Dr. Ferrer’s statement stated.

“While the Safer at Home orders will remain in place over the next few months, restrictions will be gradually relaxed under our 5-stage Roadmap to Recovery, while making sure we are keeping our communities as safe as possible during this pandemic,” the Director of Public Health continued in almost pure bureaucratic speak. “We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way—one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place.”

“We’re counting on the public’s continued compliance with the orders to enable us to relax restrictions, and we are committed to making sure that L.A. County is in the best position to provide its 10 million residents with the highest level of wellness possible as we progressively get back to normal,” Dr. Ferrer concluded.

Make of that what you will, but also today, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer unveiled that his office have filed criminal complaints against 60 businesses for violating the Safer-At-Home orders.

“As Dr. (Anthony) Fauci warned this morning, all our hard work to slow the spread of COVID-19 could be squandered if businesses violate the rules and open prematurely,” Feuer said announcing the action against a car wash, gyms, tobacco stores, hair salons and others.

As coronavirus pandemic restrictions on retailers and public spaces loosen up, L.A. County’s top medical official said today that stay-at-home orders might remain in place well into the summer.

“I do think recovery will be months-long, based on the tools we have at hand today,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the region’s Public Health Director, said this morning at a meeting of the county’s powerful Board of Supervisors.

Stressing that “with all certainly,” the stay-at home order set to expire at the end of this week will be expanded all the way to August, Ferrer added that “our hope is that by using the data, we’d be able to slowly lift restrictions over the next three months.”

A formal announcement on what the new stay-at-home rules will be is expected to be made Wednesday, Ferrer said today. She did not unveil any more specifics this morning. (UPDATE: LA Mayor Eric Garcetti called into CNN later in the day to defuse the firestorm of “panic” that quickly followed Ferrer’s comments and promised there was “no radical change” coming.)

A regular presence on TV due to her daily briefings, Ferrer did note Tuesday that any further easing of the lockdown of sorts that the county and the City of Angels have been under since late March will only be a reality if there is a “dramatic change to the virus and tools at hand.”

As of Monday, confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths in L.A. County continued to be on the rise. Heading into a full briefing later this afternoon, the L.A. County Public Health office said that the area has had over 32,250 cases and more than 1,560 fatalities as of 8 PM May 10. Those figures have moved up yet again, a civic source tells Deadline.

Ferrer’s remarks earlier today follow remote testimony by Dr. Anthony Fauci in front of the Senate warning against economically challenged states and municipalities reopening too soon and too fast as coronavirus continues to spread. The longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told lawmakers on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday that he worries “we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks.”

Even though this past Mother’s Day weekend saw widespread disregard for social distancing and mask wearing as L.A. started allowing curbside pickup for some “non-essential” business, further easing already is occurring, kind of. In a case of one level of government possibly at odds with another, California Gov. Gavin Newsom just now proclaimed that restaurants in the Golden State can reopen for dine-in service as the latest measure in his Phase 2 scheme.

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“There should be no pressure, on local officials down in L.A. or anywhere,” Newsom said in his own daily pandemic briefing on Tuesday, “to feel that they have to move into this space sooner, because their conditions are very different from some of these rural counties.”

Although L.A. County beaches are set to reopen in part on Wednesday, no word yet if the Board of Supervisors or L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti will be onboard with bringing back those lunch and dinner meetings – though we are sure to find out soon.

“We are moving this slowly and this deliberately because hasty action …kills people,” Garcetti said on May 6 as moves by former San Fran Mayor Newsom and county officials essentially tied his hands over halting the political pressure to reopen America’s second largest city amidst dismal economic and employment statistics. “Data drives decisions, not political pressure,” the Mayor added last week. “Life is not going back to the way it was before. I’ve said in the days before, this isn’t about white and black, a completely closed city or a completely open one.”

Ferrer’s words today came as County Supervisors were debating whether or not to extend a ban on commercial and residential evictions due to not paying rent. On a 3-2 vote, the Supervisors agreed to keep the moratorium in place until June 30, with reconsiderations every month.

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