LOS ANGELES — Amid record-setting spikes in newly confirmed coronavirus infections, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged Angelenos to continue staying home as much as possible — even as the region’s economy gradually emerges from its pandemic-induced coma.

During a briefing Wednesday, Garcetti shared four major takeaways: “One, COVID-19 is still here. Two, COVID-19 is still dangerous. Three, we’re adding more testing to make sure that we can find COVID-19 where it lives. And, four, we must continue to take precautions to keep our city and our people safe.

“That’s why wearing a face covering, that’s why practicing physical distancing, washing our hands and, yes, still, as painful as it might feel, staying at home whenever we can is our best defense,” he said.

Starting Thursday, Garcetti said, Los Angeles would dramatically ramp up capacity at its COVID-19 test sites, from 7,700 to 13,700 tests per day, to meet increased demand.

The announcement comes on the heels of news that many have been unable to book testing appointments, particularly following massive protests against police brutality that prompted health officials to urge demonstrators to get screened.

There have been nearly 90,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 3,200 deaths in L.A. County.

That total caseload has been fueled by significant spikes of late — including several days in which the county reported more than 2,000 new infections.

Health officials have repeatedly said that case counts would rise as more businesses and public spaces reopened, and California set back-to-back records this week in terms of daily reported coronavirus cases.

The state shattered a daily record for new cases Monday, reporting more than 6,000 infections for the first time. That number surged even higher Tuesday, when 6,652 new cases were reported.

The state reported 4,629 new cases Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times’ coronavirus tracker — pushing its cumulative total past 196,000. More than 5,700 Californians have died from COVID-19, including 98 on Wednesday.

“While you may be done with COVID, COVID is not done with us,” Garcetti said.

Cumulative case counts are only part of the equation. Health officials have said other metrics — such as the number of patients who require hospitalization — help paint a more complete picture of the coronavirus outbreak.

However, there are warning signs there, too. While L.A. County saw an average of 62 fewer hospitalized patients daily for confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 between the week of Memorial Day and last week, Riverside County saw an average daily increase of 85 patients; San Bernardino County, 70; Ventura County, 33; and Orange County, 32, according to a Times analysis.

Orange County also reported 26 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday — its most in a single day. Officials noted that not all of those people died on that particular day. The recently reported fatalities date from as far back as May 9, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

A review of death certificates resulted in the confirmation of 26 new deaths, the agency reported in a Twitter post offering “our sincere sympathies for the lives lost to this virus, no matter the day.”

Despite the increase in confirmed infections, elected and health officials have not indicated they plan to reimpose the kind of restrictions that shuttered and battered California’s economy.

That’s not to say drastic action is off the table, though. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all Californians to wear face coverings while in public or high-risk settings — a move he said was aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and helping keep the state’s reopening plans on track.

However, the move has been met with resistance and derision in some corners of the state. Some residents and elected officials have pledged not to follow the order, and some law enforcement agencies have said they will not enforce it.

Newsom warned Wednesday that counties that fail to abide by the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, including the face-covering mandate, could lose state funding targeting the coronavirus outbreak.

“There are some that have made rhetorical comments about not giving a damn, flouting any consideration of supporting the broader health directives coming out of the state of California,” Newsom said. “That’s exactly why I look forward to signing this budget that will afford me a little bit of leverage in that conversation and I think that’s the appropriate next step.”


(Times staff writers Colleen Shalby, Rong-Gong Lin II, Iris Lee, Sean Greene, Taryn Luna and Phil Willon contributed to this report.)


©2020 Los Angeles Times

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