Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday announced 59 additional deaths linked to the coronavirus, sending the county’s toll past 1,000 and marking another dramatic increase in the number of daily deaths reported.
Public health officials reported 597 new cases of the virus, which continues to aggressively spread in the county of 10 million people.
The news came 40 days after California issued its stay-at-home order. When the mandate was implemented March 19 in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, most counties went beyond the state’s guidelines to impose more stringent policies, each with varying expiration dates.
Some counties, like San Francisco, took measures well before the governor shuttered all nonessential businesses and mandated that all Californians should stay home and restrict their social interactions.
Now, several places have begun to ease local restrictions. Golf courses and beaches have reopened in some areas. Other areas are petitioning the governor to be allowed to open restaurants and places of worship
All the while, the number of COVID-19 cases — and deaths — continue to climb in the state. There have been more than 45,000 infections and over 1,800 deaths in California.
On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a four-stage plan for reopening the state. The plan requires that all 58 counties have the ability to perform contact tracing to track the potential spread of the virus.
The first modifications of the stay-at-home order, affecting low-risk workplaces such as retail spaces and child-care facilities, are expected to roll out within weeks, Newsom said. But it could take months before higher-risk spaces, including movie theaters, concert venues and gyms, are reopened.
“Our stores will look different. Offices will operate differently. But we will be healthier,” Newsom said of what’s ahead.
One notable portion of the governor’s plan includes the possibility that K-12 schools will be allowed to begin the academic year early to make up for lost learning over the last few months.
In Los Angeles County — the state’s most populous region — officials are also developing a plan to ease the Safer at Home order, which is set to expire May 15.
More than 20,000 in the county of 10 million have tested positive for the virus, and nearly 950 have died. County officials have warned the public that although social distancing practices have worked to slow the spread of the virus, the number of those who have been infected is likely far higher than the official count.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion Tuesday to establish an action plan to work with local businesses, labor partners and community leaders to lift restrictions.
Supervisor Janice Hahn, echoing an earlier statement by Newsom, said gradually lifting restrictions would not be like flipping a switch: “It’s more like a dimmer.”
“I would caution everyone from thinking that we have an end in sight, or we’re nearing the end of this unprecedented tragedy,” Hahn said. “This is not going to just go away. Coronavirus is going to be around forever, and without a vaccine to prevent us from getting the virus or a therapeutic drug to treat you, we need to really be cautious in how we reopen our society.”
The framework, co-authored by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis, lays out a set of priorities:
- Reopening of the economy through an economic resilience task force
- Recovery through a permanent 501c fund
- Reinvention among businesses concerning how they function, including using continued telecommuting services
- Resurgence of the economy through a doubling of L.A. County Works initiative
- Resiliency concerning educational efforts for youth
“This is a dark time for everyone,” Hahn said. “I don’t think we should be persuaded by petitions or people pressuring us to reopen too soon.”
In six San Francisco Bay Area counties, stay-at-home orders have been extended through the end of May, with some restrictions expected to be lifted before then.
Meanwhile in El Dorado County, where infections have tapered off after 43 infections have been confirmed and zero deaths have been reported, the public health officer is allowing the county’s stay-at-home directive to expire Thursday, its original expiration date.
Lifting local restrictions are allowed as long as they don’t undermine the state’s guidelines, Newsom has said.