LOS ANGELES - Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday the COVID-19 Safer at Home orders Los Angeles is under won't be completely lifted May 15 and limiting the orders could be a gradual process through the rest of the year.
Garcetti said he would like to see a two-week trend of declining coronavirus-related deaths and hospital admissions before opting to relax the orders, but he said he also wants consensus on actions with the county's and neighboring cities' health agencies.
"There's certain things, you know, I'd love to see (open) if they get the green light to go even sooner," Garcetti said, adding that he thinks May 15 could be the day where the city can take "baby steps" to reopen some of its assets.
"But to be clear, they're not going to be giant steps on the first day. Everybody is preparing for a big party where the doors fly wide open. That would kill so many people in this county."
Garcetti mentioned a University of Southern California study that found about 95% of residents are capable of contracting the virus, even if they don't have symptoms of it. He also noted that one in five people in Los Angeles who have contracted the coronavirus has had to be hospitalized.
"Which means if we don't do this the right way, all of the progress and all the time we spent at home would be for nothing, and we would see tens of thousands of deaths potentially here," he said.
Garcetti said within two weeks there could be a small relaxation of the Safer at Home orders, and again two weeks later, and so on until the pandemic subsides.
Several protests to have the Safer at Home orders lifted took place today near City Hall, where people called for an end to the emergency declarations that have been in effect since May 19.
Many of the people advocating for businesses to reopen were not wearing personal protective equipment, and counter-protesters confronted them while wearing masks and gloves.
"Exercise your Constitutional rights. That's important. That's part of being an American," Garcetti said, adding that he hasn't seen a May Day, also known as International Workers Day, in the city without some kind of protest.
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"But please, it's not a mayor not telling you to do these things. It is a doctor telling you to do these things. These are medical professionals telling you you're putting yourself, your loved ones, anybody around you and strangers at risk."
Garcetti also urged people to not gather in groups or travel to popular destinations over the weekend. In solidarity with the protesters, Garcetti said he too is frustrated about having to stay home, but stood by his decisions to not lift the Safer at Home orders.
"We have to be smart, and this isn't going to be over soon. So whatever we do ... do it in a smart way, and please listen to the doctors who know and who have seen the consequence.
"If we don't, it means people die. If we do, we can maintain those rights and we can exercise our freedoms better."
Garcetti also announced Capri Maddox, the executive director of the city's Department of Civil and Human Rights, as "chief of COVID-19 response equity" to respond to areas disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
As black, Latino and Asian people statistically have had a harder time working from home, the number of people dying in those communities has been higher than others.
Garcetti said Maddox will work with low-income and communities of color to get coronavirus testing and health care for people who have symptoms of the virus.
Maddox will also work to try to prevent illnesses from spreading among the neighborhoods to which she responds, Garcetti said, but did not provide any specifics.