County reports record-shattering 6,124 COVID-19 cases, considers ‘targeted’ stay-home order

Los Angeles County reported a record-breaking 6,124 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, a staggering number that will push officials to consider strict new measures meant to control the surging coronavirus, which is spreading faster than ever locally.

Today’s number shatters the previous high of 5,031 reported Thursday and boosts the county’s five-day average over 4,500, something health officials previously said would trigger a stay-at-home order banning all nonessential activity.

But in a media briefing Monday afternoon, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer stopped short of announcing the order, saying her department would work with the county board of supervisors “to determine additional safety modifications.”

She said officials would consider a “targeted Safer at Home order,” aimed at specific sectors and activities. Whatever the county ends up implementing, Ferrer said it will not be as strict as the original stay-home order issued in the spring.

“This is something that will require deliberation and conversation so that we can actually mark a path forward,” she said, emphasizing that she would bring the issue to the Board of Supervisors at its meeting Tuesday.

Coronavirus

LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer speaking about LA County’s emergency declaration in response to COVID-19 on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Photo courtesy LA County.

Earlier in the day, some members of the board of supervisors criticized the health department for not consulting with the board before issuing a suspension of all in-person dining at restaurants set to take effect Wednesday night at 10 p.m. It’s unclear whether they’ll back the tighter restrictions.

Kathryn Barger, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, has already said she would formally oppose the dining ban, and Supervisor Janice Hahn said the board should have been consulted before making the move.

But Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told City News Service she was surprised to hear the objections, noting that the board was in full agreement  following a presentation last week by Ferrer.

“Outdoor dining is probably more dangerous in terms of contagion than any other kind of business,” Kuehl said. “People sit for hours with no masks on” and while they may be distant from other tables, they are in close proximity to servers and patrons walking by.

Ferrer warned that dining and private gatherings are likely two things contributing to a “much more rapid” surge in COVID-19 infections than the county has ever seen.

But, Ferrer explained, “Most people that we interview, they have no idea where they may have become infected. And when we ask what their activities were the last two weeks, they’ve been in a variety of places where they know of no-one that was positive—both in public places and sometimes in private spaces.”

Stemming the current surge will require “devastating sacrifices, so we can get back to slowing the spread,” according to Ferrer.

“One of the sad realities for all of us is that we’ve also never seen a rate of increase that’s as high as what we’ve just seen, and we know that places where people are gathering without wearing their face coverings are places where transmission is easiest and most likely,” she said.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children.
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