With regional stay at home orders on horizon, salons next to close again in L.A. County
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of a stricter stay-at-home order that also lumps together all of Southern California, a region spanning thousands of miles, received mixed reviews from elected officials Thursday, Dec. 3, the same day Los Angeles County broke its single-day coronavirus case record, for the second time this week — once again underscoring the severity of this second surge.
The new order appears as if it will have only a modest practical impact on the daily lives of most Los Angeles County residents — at least compared to those living in adjacent counties.
That’s because its restrictions, in many ways, are similar to what L.A. County already has, with some notable exceptions, such as hair and nail salons shuttering again.
But the new criteria for assessing when the order will go into effect — and when it will end — also means L.A. County will no longer be judged solely on how the coronavirus is surging within its own borders. Rather, the new order will go into effect when the capacity of intensive care beds across 11 Southern California counties, from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, falls below 15%. That would mean all other counties — including Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside — would have the same restrictions as L.A.
Region 5, which as of Thursday was at 20.6% capacity, could fall below that threshold in a matter of days, Newsom said.
The state plans to publicly update regional capacity each day.
The new order, meanwhile, also underscores how dire health officials view the current surge and, as Newsom and others said Thursday, the need to slow the spread until vaccines become readily available.
“This is our last stand folks,” Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted. “We stay healthy and don’t overburden our hospitals and we save more lives just as the vaccine starts getting distributed in our city and state.
“If we get past this,” he added, “we beat COVID-19.”
Los Angeles County, meanwhile, epitomizes the severity of the current surge.
Health officials on Thursday reported 7,854 new cases in Los Angeles County, breaking a record it set on Tuesday. The county also reported another 44 people died from coronavirus-related causes. In all, 421,881 positive cases have been reported in L.A. County since the coronavirus pandemic began and 7,782 people have died.
Pasadena and Long Beach, which have their own health departments, also saw the surge continue on Thursday.
Pasadena reported 2 more residents had died from coronavirus-related causes, bringing the death toll to 135. And it reported 68 new cases — the city’s largest single-day number. Pasadena has seen 11 times more cases than six weeks ago. In all, Pasadena has reported 3,875 cases since the pandemic began.
Long Beach, a much larger city, reported three additional deaths and 313 cases. In all, 282 residents have died from coronavirus-related causes and there have been 17,402 cases identified since the pandemic began. Long Beach’s new daily case rate was 37.6 cases per 100,000 people.
The county, meanwhile, also reported that it had 140 ICU beds available out of roughly 2,500, or about 5% of the total. There were also 1,129 non-ICU beds available, said Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s Health Services director.
The number of available beds day to day is subject to variations, though, as patients are admitted and released, Ghaly said. The number of available beds reflects licensed beds and do not include surge capacity.
“That hopefully reinforces the idea,” Ghaly said, “that hospitals can create additional capacity when they need to.”
And they may need to create that capacity soon.
Daily new admissions for COVID-19 were hovering around 250, though that is down from the 300 or so that county hospitals were admitting a week earlier, Ghaly said.
Still, officials have warned that at the current rate, the county could run out of beds by the end of the month.
Total hospitalizations related to COVID-19 were at their all-time high this week, up to 2,668 as of Thursday, based on a state dashboard. But coronavirus patients in the ICU were below peak numbers as of Wednesday, according to the L.A. County Department of Health.
But leaders of medical facilities said they were prepared.
“As with most California health systems, Long Beach Medical Center has seen an increase in the number of admissions for COVID-19,” said Dr. James Leo, chief medical officer of MemorialCare, which operates the facility. “However, our numbers remain below the prior peaks encountered earlier in the pandemic, and we have ample supplies of PPE and ample staff to care for all our patients safely.”
Sylvain Trepanier, chief clinical executive for Providence Southern California, said the hospital system has had its surge plans in place for months.
“That allows us to turn the dial up or down as we evaluate our number of COVID cases,” Trepanier said. “To that end, we know when it’s time to stop conducting scheduled procedures that can be delayed. Each hospital is reviewing its surgical schedule on a case-by-case basis.”
But West Covina Councilmember Dario Castellanos said if hospitalizations get much worse there, his city might explore using schools to meet rising demand.
And Newsom’s Thursday announcement punctuated his concern.
“The bottom line is, if we don’t act now, our hospital system will be overwhelmed,” Newsom said during his press conference. “If we don’t act now, we’ll continue to see our death rate climb and more lives lost.”
While the new order won’t have as outsized an impact in Los Angeles County as elsewhere in Region 5 — such as Orange County, which has much looser rules — there will be some new restrictions.
For one, Pasadena, which didn’t follow the county’s in-person dining ban last week, will now have to shutter that service. And hair and nail salons, previously allowed throughout LA County, will have to close again. Museums, zoos, aquariums and tattoo parlors will also shut down.
Long Beach will have to shutdown playgrounds, even though they broke from L.A. County this week by limiting playgrounds to two families at a time rather than imposing an outright ban.
The new order received varied response on Thursday.
Some touted the new strategy. Others said it will further dampen an already slow economic recovery.
A few said they hoped it would reinforce to a populace rife with cabin fever how serious the pandemic is.
“I’m really hoping that everyone will recognize the dire seriousness of this crisis,” county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said, “demonstrate the same discipline and commitment they did in April and just stay home as much as possible.”
Long Beach’s Garcia, for his part, has long said a regional approach would work best.
“This regional approach by Governor Gavin Newsom to pandemic closures and hospitalizations is absolutely the right approach,” he tweeted. “This virus does not stop at city or county borders.”
But the move was not taken kindly by those who have argued in recent weeks for a more tailored approach within the county. Several cities, such as Lancaster, Beverly Hills and Whittier, have discussed forming their own health departments.
La Mirada Mayor John Lewis said the governor’s order banning outdoor dining would have the same negative effect L.A. County’s did.
“It’s going to have a deleterious effect on our economy,” he said, “as people are not going to go for the carry-out type of menu items.”
Lewis predicted that restaurants “will slowly bleed to death” and have to lay off employees. Like many cities, La Mirada had been looking at leaving the L.A. County Public Health Department .
That idea now appears to be moot, Lewis said.
In Manhattan Beach, where case rates are much lower than in other parts of the county, Councilmember Richard Montgomery said he wondered if the regional approach would work in getting people to better follow the health orders.
“Imagine we’re being treated the same as Riverside and San Bernardino (counties,)” said Manhattan Beach Councilmember Richard Montgomery said Thursday. “No matter how strong or how well the South Bay (does with lowering cases and hospitalizations), we’re still lumped in with these other counties.”
His city, though, also announced a workaround on Thursday that would allow people to eat takeout while at outdoor tables previously reserved for in-person dining.
Other leaders, however, questioned whether the new order will work at all.
Mayor Tony Wu said he would like to see more out of the box thinking from the state rather than shutdown orders.
“We’ve done this before,” said West Covina Mayor Tony Wu, adding he’d like the state to be more creative than defaulting to shutdowns. “Is this going to work this time? Is it going to be better than the last time?”