California has reached another milestone in the coronavirus battle as the number of confirmed cases soared past 20,000 and the state prepared for a weekend of unprecedented restrictions, including efforts to keep people at home during Easter.
Sweeping rules limiting people’s movements have already been imposed statewide, but officials have added new restrictions in a desperate bid to slow the virus’ spread.
“Being safe means safe at home, for the next few weeks to come,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday. “Everything we can do to avoid having to be in contact with other people is a really good idea.”
Beginning Friday, a new order requires Los Angeles residents to wear masks when they go shopping and do other essential trips. The order also requires many essential workers to wear masks.
Beverly Hills went a step further, ordering residents on Thursday to wear face coverings whenever they leave their homes, including for walks through their neighborhoods.
Under the order, drivers traveling alone or with members of their households do not need to wear face coverings unless they lower their vehicle’s windows for any reason, including to interact with first responders, food service workers or others who are not members of their household.
Communities are also imposing new rules designed to prevent Easter gatherings where the virus could spread.
All public parks in L.A. County will be closed Easter Sunday. “I know your heart breaks. … This is such a great tradition for the many families we have,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “But we can’t afford to have one cluster of even just a few people together spread this disease to more people and kill them.”
In Orange County, police said they will be out in force to prevent car cruising, which is an Easter tradition in Santa Ana.
Newport Beach announced Thursday that, in light of crowds at one of its most popular surfing spots, surfing at the Wedge will be prohibited between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. starting Friday.
The adjacent beach area will also close in an attempt to discourage public gatherings at one of the city’s most visited surf spots.
San Bernardino County has urged churches to hold only virtual Easter services.
“People may not leave their homes for driving parades or drive-up services or to pick up nonessential items such as prepackaged Easter eggs or bags filled with candy and toys at a drive-through location,” the county said in a statement earlier this week.
After announcing the initial ban, however, the county pulled back and said drive-in religious services could proceed, but congregants must be kept apart.
Ventura County has banned all public and private gatherings of more than two people outside a single household or living unit, although an updated public health order released Thursday allows for a few exceptions.
Los Angeles County health officials announced 25 more COVID-19 deaths Thursday as the number of fatalities statewide surpassed 500.
Almost one-fourth of the people who have died in L.A. County lived in nursing homes and other institutional settings, Ferrer said.
While hospitalizations in California climbed to 2,825 on Thursday, the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care fell 1.9%, to 1,132, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
“One data point is not a trend; one data point is not a headline, so I caution anybody to read too much into that one point of data,” Newsom said. “But, nonetheless, it is encouraging. It just again reinforces the incredible work that all of you are doing to practice physical distance. Stay-at-home is working in the state of California.”
California has not seen the death toll of virus hot spots such as New York state, where more than 7,000 people have died. While the virus continues to spread rapidly in some places, including Los Angeles County, there are signs that its rate of growth could be slowing in parts of the Bay Area.
Newsom repeated that the duration of the stay-at-home order depends on whether Californians continue to follow it and wear appropriate face coverings if they go out.