California coronavirus stay-at-home orders extended

The death toll from coronavirus in Los Angeles County rose again Saturday as officials extended stay-at-home orders into May and residents entered an Easter weekend with unprecedented limits on their movements.

Los Angeles County reported an additional 25 deaths related to the coronavirus Saturday and 456 new cases. Long Beach, which has its own health department, also reported a death Saturday.

“As people of different faiths come together this weekend, my thoughts and prayers are with all those who are experiencing loss, illness and distress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

Of the deaths reported by L.A. County, 21 people were over the age of 65 and two were between the ages of 41 and 65, officials said. Twenty-one people had underlying health conditions. The deaths included two in the city of Pasadena.

The person who died in Long Beach was a woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions, officials said. The city has recorded a total of 332 cases, 48 of them among people who were hospitalized. Ten people have died.

Seven of the deaths in Long Beach were associated with long-term care facilities, officials said. A total of 69 cases have been reported among residents and staff at six such facilities in the city.

Los Angeles County had recorded 267 deaths related to the coronavirus and more than 8,800 cases as of Saturday afternoon.

As of Saturday afternoon, California had recorded 630 deaths and more than 21,600 confirmed cases. That’s significantly fewer than in other hot spots, such as New York, but officials say more weeks of social distancing will be needed by Californians to keep the numbers manageable.

Orange County reported one additional death related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 85 new cases on Saturday, for a total of 18 deaths and 1,221 cases since the outbreak began. A total of 118 people were hospitalized, and 63 of them were in intensive care, the county said.

Los Angeles County health officials warned Friday that residents of the region must adopt even more stringent social distancing practices to slow the spread of the coronavirus and that stay-at-home restrictions could remain into the summer.

Even with the dramatic social distancing county residents are already practicing, officials forecast that up to 30% of residents could be infected by midsummer without more behavioral changes, such as reducing shopping trips.

As a result, Los Angeles County is extending its stay-at-home order through at least May 15.

This weekend, to deter crowds from gathering for traditional outdoor Easter observances, all L.A. County botanical gardens, lakes and parks will be closed on Sunday, the county Department of Parks and Recreation said in a statement.

“This was a difficult decision as we know Easter is [a] day of celebration for many park guests,” the statement said. “However, the anticipated high volume of visitors would make it impossible for the public to implement safe physical distancing practices or prevent group gathering.”

While the strict physical distancing measures in L.A. County, which have been in effect for three weeks, have clearly saved many lives, officials said, models presented by the county Friday show dire scenarios if the stay-at-home order were to be lifted now.

There are still too many people becoming infected with the coronavirus in the county, officials said. And there is more than a 50% chance that the current capacity of intensive care unit beds in L.A. County, roughly 750 now, could be filled by late April.

San Francisco Bay Area counties already extended their stay-at-home orders.

In Riverside County, officials reminded families to refrain from traveling during the Easter holiday, especially to relatively isolated resort areas like Idyllwild.

County Supervisor Chuck Washington said his office has had multiple inquiries from concerned residents of the town of 2,500, which he noted does not have enough resources or medical services for both residents and travelers.

“I understand that families who have been isolated for weeks want to entertain their kids, but we are in the middle of a public health crisis,” Washington said in a statement. “We can’t risk families exposing themselves and the residents of Idyllwild to COVID-19 just for a snow trip.”

Riverside County’s public health officer last week banned all public and private gatherings of any size and ordered residents to wear face coverings when leaving home. Violators could face a $1,000 fine.

Meanwhile, budget advisors to Gov. Gavin Newsom told California lawmakers on Friday that the price tag for state’s initial efforts to combat the coronavirus will total at least $7 billion, with additional costs expected before year’s end.

The estimate, contained in a letter to the Legislature’s joint budget committee, is the first comprehensive look at the fiscal impact of the state’s response to the pandemic. It does not include substantial costs already borne by city and county governments across the state.

“This impact is expected to be immediate, affecting fiscal year 2019-20, and will continue into fiscal year 2020-21 and additional years depending on the pace of recovery of local, state and national economies,” wrote Keely Bosler, the governor’s finance director, in the letter to lawmakers.

Read More