With coronavirus cases in California reaching more than 16,000, Los Angeles County officials urged residents Monday to avoid shopping and stay inside this week in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus that has claimed almost 400 lives in the state.
The plea to the public comes as officials continue pushing for diligent and persistent social distancing as the best shot at trying to control the outbreak and prevent hospitals from being overrun by the sick in the coming weeks.
“If you have enough supplies in your home, this would be the week to skip shopping altogether,” said L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “We cannot underestimate COVID-19, a virus that knows no boundaries infects people of all ages and can cause significant illness and death, particularly among people who are elderly or who have underlying serious health conditions.”
Los Angeles County officials Monday confirmed 15 new coronavirus-linked deaths, bringing the county’s total to 147.
Ferrer announced 420 new coronavirus cases in the county, bringing the total to at least 6,377. Twelve of the newly confirmed deaths were among people 65 and older, and seven of them had underlying health conditions. The three others were between the ages of 41 and 65.
Statewide, coronavirus cases have surpassed 16,000 with more than 385 dead. But those numbers are a fraction of the toll in New York, the national epicenter of the outbreak, and California is seeing less alarming numbers than some states.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that California was loaning 500 state-owned ventilators to the Strategic National Stockpile to help New York and other COVID-19 hot spots facing shortages of the desperately needed medical devices.
Hospitals throughout California have procured thousands of ventilators over the past few weeks, increasing their total ventilator inventory from 7,587 to 11,036, Newsom said.
Newsom emphasized that the ventilators are being loaned to the Strategic National Stockpile on the condition that they will be returned if California needs them.
“These are lent. They are not given,” Newsom said.
Still, Newsom’s announcement came on the same day that Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez and other local leaders put out a plea for used ventilators, offering a $1,000 bounty for each device. Santa Clara County has been one of the hardest-hit areas in California during the coronavirus outbreak.
The governor said the state has also continued searching worldwide for additional ventilators, masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and others to increase its stockpile.
Newsom’s announcement comes after Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon and Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington also announced they would send ventilators to areas of the country in need. Brown on Saturday said 140 ventilators were being sent to New York and Inslee on Sunday said the state would return more than 400 ventilators received from the Strategic National Stockpile to help New York and other areas seeing a surge of cases.
Statewide, California has yet to see a massive surge of cases filling hospitals, at least for now, because the vast majority of Californians have heeded orders to stay at home and, when venturing outside to buy essentials or for recreation, have also maintained the recommended social distancing from others.
If Californians maintain that behavior, the state should have enough ventilators to care for residents in need for the near future, Newsom said.
Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Monday evening that any Los Angeles County resident with symptoms who wants to be tested for the coronavirus can now apply online at the city’s coronavirus website, coronavirus.lacity.org.
Testing was previously limited to vulnerable populations, including those 65 and older, and those with compromised immune systems.
“Now that doesn’t mean we’ll have a test for everybody tomorrow,” he said, “but it means that our capacity is now greater” than it was.