Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the city tonight in a live-streamed news conference, outlining the latest coronoavirus-related shutdowns and recovery measures, saying, “the city is strong and won’t shut down.”
Garcetti said he has taken steps effective at midnight, directing bars, wineries, clubs, gyms, bowling alleys, arcades and movie theaters to close until March 31. Libraries, recreations centers and zoos are also closed, he added.
Seniors in the Meals on Wheels program will still get deliveries, and he said he hoped to expand the operation.
“We are all first responders and the actions that we take will save lives,” he said, urging the continued practice of social distancing.
Garcetti said the city has established a moratorium on evictions for people who have been laid off or had hours reduced, in addition to a moratorium on gas and electric shutoffs. He reminded people that the water coming from their faucets is clean and good to drink.
He also asked restaurants to stop in-door dining but remain open for deliveries and takeout orders, and said he hoped Angelenos would continue to patron those establishments. In the meantime, he said the city will be rolling out a loan-assistance program this week which will immediately make funds available for at least 400 of the hardest hit businesses.
He said the city will also be establishing a fund to help residents who have lost wages or need financial assistance, and urged people to donate.
He pleaded with religious institutions to limit their activities at churches, mosques and synagogues to reduce possible exposure to COVID-19.
“We have a First Amendment, so we can’t order them to do that, but I am asking that they limit their activities for the foreseeable future.”
Los Angeles Unified School District on Wednesday will open 60 centers citywide where families and students can get food, and 40 of those will also be “parent centers,” where parents can get information and speak with police, he said.
He also strongly urged people to resist hoarding food and supplies.
The long lines at supermarkets are a public safety issue and those people who are buying food for another week or month are denying it to others who need it, he said.
“I’ve talked to grocery store officials and they’ve assured me there is food for tomorrow, food for next week and for next month and so on,” Garcetti said. “Please don’t hoard food and engage in panic buying.”
He also took aim at the initial response of the Trump administration, saying there was a “dereliction of duty” when it came to getting testing kits. He encouraged the U.S. Senate to pass the House bill, which the White House supported, and that he was joining with other mayors across the country to persuade the U.S. Government to provide more testing kits.
Without citing sources, he said about 75% of current COVID-19 tests being performed were coming back negative.
With regard to the Brown Act, which ensures that the public has access to local legislative bodies, he said the city was working to ensure that committee meetings would be streamed and instructed citizens with comments to provide them online.
He noted there has been a significant amount of misinformation floating around the Internet, as well as robo-calls spreading panic about road and building closures.
“Don’t listen to the misinformation or gossip,” he said. “Instead, go to sites like lacity.org and lacounty.gov to get accurate, factual information that is reliable.”
He also addressed the homeless crisis, saying the city was doing everything possible to move homeless people into hotels. He said the city had set up 250 hand-sanitizing and hand-washing stations near homeless encampments and promised to open 14 new shelters by June.
“We hope to speed up that process to get them open sooner,” he said.
He concluded with a call to “stay calm and stay prepared” and reach out to others who may need help, especially seniors who may be living in isolation.