LOS ANGELES – The mayor of Los Angeles on Wednesday told everyone in the nation’s second largest city to start wearing masks to fight the coronavirus, but the governor of California is not ready to embrace the idea in statewide.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday he was focusing instead on keeping people indoors. He also said the state may need an additional 66,000 hospital beds, 16,000 more than expected, to deal with the disease crash expected in the second half of May.
At an afternoon press conference, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was awaiting advice from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on wearing a mask, but with the COVID rate soaring -19, he had decided not to wait any longer.
The mayor said the 4 million residents who perform essential tasks such as food shopping should wear homemade, non-medical face coverings, or even bandanas, as residents of other affected countries have done. by COVID-19.
“To be clear, you should always stay home. It’s not an excuse to suddenly pull it all out, ”Garcetti said.
He also said people should not use medical grade masks, which are in short supply and are necessary for healthcare workers and first responders.
The mayor said that even a “tucked-in bandana” could slow the spread of the virus, and masks are also good at reminding people to keep their distance.
“I know it will look surreal,” he said, donning a mask. “You’ll have to get used to seeing yourself like this … that will be the look.”
Los Angeles County reported more than 500 new cases on Wednesday, a 17% increase from the previous day.
Garcetti’s announcement came after Riverside County public health official Dr Cameron Kaiser urged people who have to go out in public to use something – even bandanas or neck warmers – to cover up mouth and nose to protect themselves and others.
The governor was supposed to issue guidelines for the masks, but in his own press conference, Newsom said he didn’t think they should be a substitute for keeping a safe distance from others and taking additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
“They do not replace a stay at home order. They are not a call to get people to find N95 masks or surgical masks and take them off or compete with our first responders, ”Newsom said.
Instead, Newsom focused on adding thousands of more hospital beds than previously announced. It now expects to need 66,000 additional hospital beds for the peak of cases expected at the end of May, 16,000 more than its previous projections.
In Riverside County, Kaiser said the virus is spread through droplets that can be spread through coughing or sneezing, so some type of blanket could help even if it’s not a face mask. hospital quality.
Kaiser made the recommendation because the fourth largest county in the state was seeing infections spike faster than expected. At the current rate, he said on Wednesday he would run out of hospital beds by April 12 and ventilators by April 26.
“When the situation changes, the rulebook changes,” Kaiser said in a press release. “We are seeing our numbers increase even earlier than expected, which means our strategy must change as well. “
U.S. and global health officials have said people who aren’t healthcare workers shouldn’t wear masks unless they’re sick – to avoid infecting others.
The World Health Organization has recommended that people caring for a sick relative wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agreed – as long as the sick person couldn’t wear a mask.
But there have been conflicting directions. Austria said this week it would demand masks for grocery shoppers. President Donald Trump has suggested that worried people wear a headscarf.
California public health officer Dr Sonia Angell said face coverings could prevent the spread of the virus, but if worn or handled improperly, they can lead to infection. They could also cause people to let their guard down and not stay within the recommended distance of 1.8 meters (6 feet) from others.
“When we talk about potential falls, which we also need to recognize, it could be that if people are wearing these masks, they feel somewhat immune, they feel like they can get close to other people,” Angell said. .
The spread of the virus statewide has so far been slow enough to give the state time to prepare for an expected spike in cases that could overwhelm hospitals if extreme measures are not taken to keep most people at home and away from others.
The state on Wednesday reported more than 9,300 cases of the virus and 199 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, which maintains a global tally.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.
Newsom spoke last week about increasing hospital beds in the state by two-thirds to add 50,000 new beds in locations that could include convention centers and arenas to meet peak demand on next month. On Wednesday, he increased that number.
“The modeling shows that we will need approximately 66,000 beds by the end of May,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the State Department of Health and Human Services, at a press conference with the governor.
Newsom got bad news for parents on Wednesday when he said schools should plan to teach remotely for the rest of the school year.
The state’s Superintendent of Public Education, Tony Thurmond, provided similar advice to the districts on Tuesday evening. The decision whether or not to return to class will ultimately be up to school districts.