LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County officials announced a new "Safer-at-Home" health officer order Wednesday, two days before the county's initial order was set to expire.
County officials said they continue to refer to the orders as "safer-at-home" because currently, residents are safer when they stay home.
"While the Safer at Home orders will remain in place over the next few months, restrictions will be gradually relaxed under our 5-stage Roadmap to Recovery, while making sure we are keeping our communities as safe as possible during this pandemic,” said the county's Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
Ferrer said the new health officer order does not have an end date, but it will be modified to loosen restrictions as it is warranted.
“It is still safer to remain at home, COVID-19 has not changed,” she said.
She also explained that some of the county’s dates for phases of reopening might not coincide with those of the state.
“Literally half the cases and half the deaths are happening in LA County right now,” Ferrer noted earlier this week.
Under the new order, there are two additional categories of "lower risk businesses" that are now permitted to reopen as long as they meet the county's requirements, which are listed on Public Health's website.
Those categories include all retail businesses, excluding those located inside a shopping center or mall, for curbside, door-side, outside pickup, or delivery only. It also includes manufacturing and logistic businesses that supply to those lower-risk businesses.
Ferrer also announced that additional outdoor recreational areas would be allowed to reopen, including tennis courts, pickleball courts, shooting ranges, equestrian centers, bike parks, community gardens and model airplane sites.
"Everyone must continue to practice physical distancing of at least six feet apart and wear a clean cloth face covering that securely covers both your nose and mouth when around people outside of your household," the order states.
The new health officer order continues to prohibit gatherings of any size, outside of your immediate household.
Ferrer provided some reassurance Wednesday, stating that the actions residents have taken over the last two months are, in fact, saving lives.
“If everybody hadn’t done their part... if people hadn’t stayed home... we would’ve had many, many more cases and we would’ve had many, many more deaths," she said.
On Tuesday, Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors that the order was likely to be extended, in some capacity, unless county health officials saw a major change in the fight against the deadly virus.
"There's now no way, unless there was a dramatic change in ... this virus and the tools that we have at hand to actually fight against this virus, there's no way that we could in fact see us not needing to continue with a set of restrictions,'' Ferrer said.
Such "dramatic change" would have to include a reliable vaccine, at-home daily testing for COVID-19 and treatment for the infection, she said.
The county continued to relax some of the stay-at-home restrictions Wednesday, allowing county beaches to reopen for active use only if residents wore facemasks and socially distanced themselves from one another.
On Friday, the county allowed certain retail stores to reopen for curbside pickup with social distancing and reopened a majority of the county's hiking trails to residents who wore face-coverings and maintained six feet of space from others.
The county on Wednesday reported 1,264 new coronavirus cases an 47 additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 34,428 cases and 1,659 deaths.
Of the newly reported deaths, 33 were individuals over the age of 65, 30 of which had underlying health conditions. Nine individuals were between the ages of 41 and 65, eight of which had underlying health conditions. One individual with no underlying health conditions who died was between the ages of 18 and 40. The data on the remaining cases was not immediately available.
Approximately 92% of all county residents who died from the virus had underlying health conditions. County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, said this emphasizes the county's need to protect those with underlying health conditions and urges those residents to stay at home as much as possible.
She said this includes, but is not limited to, individuals with asthma, those who have had cancer, anyone with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and anyone who is immune-compromised.
"If you're part of one of these groups, you need to take every precaution imaginable to protect yourself from COVID-19," said Ferrer.
According to Public Health, 5,596 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 at some point required hospitalization during their battle with the illness. There are 1,763 individuals currently hospitalized in the county with the virus, Ferrer said.
Testing capacity continues to increase in LA County, with testing results available for over 263,000 individuals and 11% of those people testing positive.
While LA County officials have not released data on the number of COVID-19 patients that have recovered from the virus within the county, John's Hopkins University reports that more than 230,000 patients have recovered nationwide.
Public Health said that based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they are now requiring anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 to self-isolate for 10 days and 72 hours after fever and symptoms subside.
"New evidence suggests it may take longer for the virus to shed, which means that an infected person may be able to infect other people for a longer period of time than was initially thought," Public Health wrote in a news release. "This means you must stay home until your fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications and there is improvement in your respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath) for at least three days (72 hours) after recovery, AND at least 10 days have passed since your symptoms first appeared or you were tested."
Public Health continues to stress to the public that while a majority of those who have died from COVID-19 in the county had underlying health conditions, not everyone does. Residents are urged to continue to take the necessary precautions in order to protect themselves from the virus.
Health officials say that social distancing remains our best defense against the virus, and all residents are instructed to abide by current measures in place across the state. Social distancing is not only about preventing the illness itself, but rather, slowing the rate at which people get sick.
On April 3, the CDC announced that it would be recommending people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
The use of face coverings is believed to help slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus, without knowing it, from transmitting it to others.
This comes as more evidence is emerging that coronavirus infections are being spread by people who have no clear symptoms. Last month, the CDC changed how it was defining risk of infection for Americans, saying anyone may be a considered a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not.
In accordance with new guidelines from the CDC, Public Health said that anyone who begins to experience symptoms must contact those they were in contact with up to 48 hours prior to having symptoms in order for them to self-isolate.
According to the CDC, symptoms of the virus include fever, coughing, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a new loss of taste or smell. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should call their healthcare provider or local public health department first before seeking medical care so that appropriate precautions can be taken.
Click here for a list of locations of confirmed coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County.
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