Nearly a month after Mayor Eric Garcetti declared a local emergency to help stem the novel coronavirus, city leaders met Thursday, April 3, for a virtual town to discuss the city’s efforts.
During the meeting hosted by Sen. Henry Stern (D-Canoga Park), Frank Alvarez, health director for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, warned that the numbers are going to increase in the next few weeks.
So far, more than 23,000 people have been tested and tens of thousands of new tests are coming up in the next few days, according to Alvarez.
Los Angeles County public health officials reported 13 new deaths on Thursday, bringing the toll to 78. In total, 4,045 individuals tested positive for the virus across the city.
Alvarez also said the “safer-at-home” order will likely continue for the next few weeks, even months.
“It’s going to get rougher in the two to three weeks,” he said. “But we can control the impact and we got to stick with it. I know it’s tough but we got to stay strong.”
The Department of Homeland Security, Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell said he anticipated the county would need more hospital beds in the next few months to treat coronavirus patients.
The USNS Mercy, a hospital ship, docked at the Port of Los Angeles last week. Sent by the Department of Defense, the ship is aimed at freeing up local hospitals that are taking in patients infected with COVID-19.
The Mercy provides nearly 1,000 beds for non-coronavirus patients but with a possible deficit of about 11,000 beds, there might be a need for more beds, Gorell said.
Recently, the city has converted The Los Angeles Convention Center into a field hospital with 250 beds to free up some hospitals.
“We’ve got plans to expand it to 500 beds and, if necessary, it could as many as 6,000 beds,” Gorell said. “We hope that we don’t need 11,000 beds but we want to be prepared for any contingency.”
Gorell added that the city has been working with the state and county agencies on getting “our vulnerable unsheltered population from dense encampments that proved to be very disastrous in terms of the spread of the virus and into various shelters and hotel rooms.”
Nearly 20 recreation centers are currently open across the city and staffed with employees from the Department of Recreation and Parks, taking in unsheltered people from the encampments. The plan is to expand that number to 48 recreation centers, according to Gorell.
In addition, a section of the Los Angeles Convention Center could be used to shelter the homeless. The city is also working with the state to lease unutilized and underutilized motels for the homeless “to keep them isolated from the congestion of the encampments,” Gorell said.