LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County health officials have announced another 1,011 cases of COVID-19 and 44 additional deaths, while hiking trails and parks were reopened one day after the county allowed select retail businesses to reopen with curbside service.
Officials warned in easing some restrictions that the pandemic is far from over, and those words were backed up by Saturday's daily update, which brought the county's coronavirus toll to 31,197 cases and 1,512 fatalities.
“Many people in our community are experiencing profound loss because their loved ones have passed away from COVID-19. We keep you in our thoughts and prayers every day,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county's public health director.
“If you are out and about this weekend, please take every precaution since anyone of us, even if we are not sick, could be infected with COVID-19 and capable of infecting others. When outside your home, always stay six feet away from everyone and wear a cloth face covering securely over your nose and mouth if there are others near you. These actions are critically important as we begin the journey of recovery so that we don't find ourselves with large increases in hospitalizations and deaths that would require us to reinstitute restrictions,” Ferrer said.
Despite the relaxation of restrictions, people still protested outside Getty House, the Windsor Square residence of Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Protesters gathered about 2 p.m. at the mansion at Sixth Street and Irving Boulevard and dispersed without incident at about 3:30 p.m., Officer Mike Chan of the Los Angeles Police Department's Media Relations Section told CNS.
Parks and hiking trails in Los Angeles reopened Saturday, but the popular Runyon Canyon trail and all beaches remain closed.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said staff were deployed to ensure people are adhering to social-distancing requirements, and all hikers over age 2 will be required to wear face coverings.
“They're (the sheriff's Parks Bureau) not doing anything out of the ordinary,” Deputy James Nagao of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Information Bureau told City News Service on Saturday. “The Parks Bureau is consistently patrolling Los Angeles County parks in an effort to make sure people are enjoying the park experience.”
County parks officials urged residents not to visit trails if they are sick or exhibiting any sign of illness. People who do hike on the trails should do so only with members of their household, and hikers should bring water, hand-sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes, park officials said.
“There is no new enforcement initiative, specifically,” Chan said. “Any sort of enforcement will be the last result. There is no new rule of engagement, as these parks are being phased into operation, concretely.”
City and county golf courses also reopened with restrictions, but pro shops remain closed and golf course restaurants are restricted to carry-out service only.
County parks were originally expected to be closed for Mother's Day on Sunday, but they will now remain open, although large gatherings will be prohibited and social-distancing mandates will be in effect.
The parks will be open for “passive use, such as walking, jogging and leisure time outdoors for individuals or families.”
“Since the holiday is one of the busiest days of the year, L.A. County Parks reminds all park guests that social distancing is required and group gatherings are prohibited by the health order,” according to the department.
The county's four botanical gardens -- the county Arboretum and Botanic Garden, the South Coast Botanic Garden, Descanso Gardens and Virginia Robinson Gardens -- will all be closed Sunday.
All beaches in the county remain off-limits, although planning is continuing for a possible reopening by late next week. Long Beach will reopen its beach walking/bike paths Monday, although the beaches themselves will remain closed.
All parks in Beverly Hills will be closed from 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday as part of what a city official called “its proactive approach to protecting the community from the spread of COVID-19.”
“We hope everyone will stay at home and celebrate Mother's Day virtually as we continue to put the health of our community first,” Mayor Les Friedman said.
Friday's newly relaxed restrictions allowed florists, toy stores, book stores, clothing retailers, sporting-goods stores and music shops to reopen, but only with curbside pickup service. Car dealers were also allowed to reopen, but with strict social-distancing and infection-control measures in showrooms.
Ferrer also said people who know they've been exposed to someone with the illness must quarantine themselves for 14 days, which is recognized as the incubation period for the virus.
She noted that since it can take two weeks for the infection to materialize, it could be that long before the impact of the business reopenings is known. Ferrer has suggested that an increase in cases is almost inevitable if more people leave their homes to visit newly re-opened businesses, but health officials will be closely monitoring case numbers and the mortality rate, particularly among vulnerable communities.
The danger of easy transmission was highlighted on Saturday when Pasadena officials reported that a cluster of COVID-19 cases was traced back to a recent birthday party in the city. At least five people at the party tested positive and many more reportedly have symptoms.
Also Saturday, Presiding Judge Kevin Brazile of the Los Angeles County Superior Court system announced that judges and other staff will be required to wear face coverings while in court and in public areas inside courthouses.