LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — With an increase of 20% in cases within the city of Los Angeles and 11 new deaths reported in Los Angeles County, Mayor Eric Garcetti Wednesday announced that all Angelenos should begin wearing non-medical face coverings while in public.
“Some of the places with slower rates of spread from the Czech Republic to Taiwan and South Korea are reminders that tackling coronavirus depends on not spreading respiratory droplets,” Garcetti said.
Garcetti stressed that medical-grade face coverings — such as N95 and surgical masks — should not be worn by the general public or essential workers who are not in the medical field.
Those non-medical workers and the general public should instead wear homemade or cloth face coverings that prevent the spread of respiratory droplets, though that does not mean people can begin ignoring social distancing guidelines.
“To be clear, you should still stay at home, this is not an excuse to suddenly go out,” Garcetti said. “You need to stay at home, but when you have to go out we are recommending that we use non-medical-grade masks or facial coverings and not take the ones that are reserved for our first responders.”
The mayor asked that people share pictures and videos of their cloth face coverings on social media using #LAProtects, which is also the name of a new initiative he announced Wednesday.
“L.A. Protects is all about making sure that our medical personnel get what they need and that the rest of us can do our part to stop and slow the spread,” Garcetti said. “This hashtag is a deliberate choice and aligns with my L.A. Protects manufacturing initiative which is already yielding results and producing non-medical masks destines in short order for grocery store workers, non-medical staff in hospitals and others providing essential services during this crisis.”
The L.A.Protects initiative matches approved garment manufacturers in the city with those essential workplaces in need of masks to keep their employees safe. So far, Garcetti said 400 area manufacturers have signed up to make cloth face coverings, and more than 100 have been approved.
He said the initiative already has the capacity to manufacture more than 2 million face coverings per week.
As for those in need of medical-grade personal protective equipment, Garcetti said the city is working to get private industry to provide that much-needed equipment as well.
“We are mobilizing our architecture, design and manufacturing communities to utilize 3D printing technology to produce personal protective equipment for health care professionals standing front and center in this crisis,” he said.
The mayor said designs for face shields are ready to print and that the city is working to match hospitals with manufacturers to get that equipment where it’s most needed.
Garcetti also reported that the city of Los Angeles continues to increase its testing capacity, administering more than 2,000 tests on Wednesday alone. By April 8, the city is expected to have administered more than 30,000 tests.
The ramped up testing comes on the heels of an update on the period of exposure risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“What this means is that if you are symptomatic, you must now notify anyone you came into close contact with starting two days prior to the onset of those symptoms,” Garcetti said. “So don’t just think about where you were when you started feeling sick, but think backwards two days before, contact those people, let them know so that they can quarantine, isolate themselves and we can stop the spread and knock down this curve.”
But despite the increase in cases and the call for continued social distancing, Garcetti said four more businesses have been referred to the city attorney for violating the Safer at Home order.
“A failure to comply with these measures and to heed warnings to close will result in a misdemeanor charge,” Garcetti said. “This is serious and we cannot allow violations to continue.”
The mayor said he would be directing the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to shut off utilities to those non-essential businesses.
Though he said the county was working to provide some relief to restaurants that have pivoted from selling pre-prepared menu items to selling grocery items.
Garcetti said that the Los Angeles County Department of Health has since allowed restaurants to include grocery items — such as toilet paper, eggs and milk — on their take out or delivery menus.
“This could be the lifeline that they need to stay afloat,” Garcetti said. “And they’re able to sell these grocery products for delivery and takeout, and that’s the kind of ingenuity that we need right now. We need to think about anything we can do to get ourselves through this, not just our health, but the health of our economy as well.”