March 27, 2020 at 7:11 pm PDT | by Brody Levesque
LA’s Covid-19 deaths soar as USNS Mercy arrives

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Gavin Newsom welcome United States Naval Medical Ship Mercy from San Diego, now LA’s largest hospital. (Photo by Los Angeles Blade)

California Governor Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and other officials welcomed the arrival of the U.S. Navy Hospital Ship USNS Mercy to the Port of Los Angeles Friday morning. The ship was ordered to provide relief assistance by President Donald Trump to assist in the ongoing efforts to provide additional resources as California’s healthcare workers battle the COVID-19 pandemic providing an additional 1,000 beds and critical medical infrastructure in Southern California.

Arrival of the ship comes as the mortality rate rose again in Los Angeles County. A spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told the Los Angeles Blade Friday afternoon that the DPH had recorded five confirmed new deaths and 257 new cases of COVID-19.

There have been 678 confirmed cases over the past 48 hours according to the spokesperson. With those new cases, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) has now seen 1,465 cases across the County to include Pasadena and Long Beach. There are now 26 confirmed deaths although the death of a 17-year-old male Antelope Valley resident earlier in the week is still under investigation by the CDC at the request of LACDPH officials. Asked about the number of cases currently in hospital, the response was that as of Friday morning 317 residents had been hospitalized.

Speaking to reporters in a pier-side press briefing next to the ship, Newson and Garcetti flanked by U.S. Navy Expeditionary Strike Group 3 Commander, Rear Admiral John Gumbleton, praised the ongoing federal efforts and then answered questions updating the response from the state and the city governments to the outbreak.

Noting that the latest numbers reflected a nearly 50% increase, the Governor pointed out that over the next six-day period California would be at the same place that New York City is currently. Newsom then again stressed the importance of Californians observing the Safer At Home order while noting that there were instances of behavior still occurring that required elected officials to close further recreational facilities, parks, and beaches across the state.

Garcetti noted that earlier, Los Angeles County authorities had closed all of the county’s beaches, and hiking trails. The Mayor told reporters that he had ordered the two city-owned beaches, Venice and Cabrillo, also closed.

“The crowds we saw at our beaches last weekend were unacceptable,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said in a press statement. “In order to save lives, beaches in LA County will be temporarily closed. I understand that this is a huge sacrifice for everyone who enjoys going to our beaches. But we cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus. This closure is temporary and we can always reopen these beaches when it is safe to do so.”

“The new Health Officer Order is in line with our efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County It is crucial that we limit access to non-essential places where crowds have been gathering,” Dr. Ferrer wrote in a separate statement released Friday by LACDPH. “Please practice social distancing when you do go outside to enjoy the beautiful weather. That means staying at least 6 feet away from other people.”

Newsom also noted that while eighty-eight thousand COVID-19 tests had been administered to date, the problem was that there are tens of thousands of tests that have not yet been processed.

Mayor Garcetti also noted that over two thousand retired, or out of work healthcare professionals including nurses and doctors had volunteered to get back to work in LA County to assist in the efforts combating the rising numbers of people affected by the viral outbreak.

Prior to the press briefing, Newsom issued an executive order banning the enforcement of eviction orders for renters affected by COVID-19 through May 31, 2020.

“The order prohibits landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent and prohibits enforcement of evictions by law enforcement or courts. It also requires tenants to declare in writing, no more than seven days after the rent comes due, that the tenant cannot pay all or part of their rent due to COVID-19, the Governor’s office wrote in a press release.

“The tenant would be required to retain documentation but not required to submit it to the landlord in advance. And the tenant would remain obligated to repay full rent in a timely manner and could still face eviction after the enforcement moratorium is lifted. The order takes effect immediately, and provides immediate relief to tenants for whom rent is due on April 1st.”

Newsom had issued a previous executive order which authorized local governments to halt evictions for renters impacted by the pandemic.

On Thursday Newsom had hosted a video conference call with physician-scientists from across the state’s network of medical centers & medical schools to discuss COVID-19 clinical trials and therapies that could help the world chart a path toward defeating the virus.

One participant who asked to not be identified told the Los Angeles Blade Friday, “There’s as much as ten times as many cases of coronavirus infection- than being reported. I think that the death count is very likely much higher because the criteria for testing are so strict. So we don’t really know the actual infection rate or mortality rate is currently.”

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