Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis says if the county's daily COVID-19 cases continue at the pandemic-high level reported Thursday, the county could find itself under a strict stay-at-home order as early as Sunday.
Such an order would allow only essential workers to leave their homes, as well as people accessing essential services. It would also include a countywide curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Later Thursday, Gov. Gavin Newsom along with state health officials order enacting a curfew starting Saturday at 10 p.m. "Non-essential work and gatherings must stop from 10 p.m.- 5 a.m. in counties in the purple tier," the governor ordered.
Los Angeles County is reporting a staggering 5,031 new confirmed coronavirus cases coronavirus Thursday, raising the cumulative total to 353,232.
LA County regulations will go into effect Friday and will limit restaurants — already crippled by the virus and not able to open indoors — to half their outdoor capacity and shut them down at 10 p.m. Nonessential retailers are limited to a quarter of inside capacity.
The changes come as the county has seen its average daily cases nearly triple since Nov. 1 to close to 3,000. The daily case count Wednesday was just below 4,000.
If the county averages more than 4,000 newly reported cases a day or 1,750 hospitalizations, it would end dining and restaurants would only be able to offer food for takeout and delivery. If cases or hospitalizations reach 4,500 or 2,000, respectively, the county will go on lockdown and impose a curfew for three weeks.
“I don’t think it’s inevitable that we do get there,” said Barbara Ferrer, the director of public health. “I hope with every single bone in my body that we don’t get there.”
The county of 10 million residents has had a disproportionately large share of the state's cases and deaths. Although it accounts for a quarter of the state's 40 million residents, it has about a third of the cases and more than a third of the deaths.
Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, said all the new restrictions rolled out or announced in the state in recent days are welcome, but they should have been done sooner when cases were first rising and he imagines LA will soon approach stay-home order levels.
“This is a bad situation,” Topol said. “It’s just slow, sluggish responsiveness, incomplete. And then we have a significant minority of people who are not willing to go along with it. We have no enforcement. If you’re indoors without a mask in a crowd it’s not like you get fined. Nothing happens to you.”