Californians were ordered to stay at home Thursday as Santa Monica College reported its first coronavirus case and the total number of cases in Los Angeles County reached 292.

L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said 61 new cases had been confirmed Friday for a total of 101 new cases in the past two days. On Thursday, L.A. County officials and Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California’s population of 40 million to only leave their homes for essential reasons as the number of cases statewide topped 1,000, with 21 deaths as of Friday. Newsom said 56% of Californians could be infected if they don’t follow orders to stay home.

On Friday, Ferrer released demographic information about county residents who have tested positive for the first time. The median age is 47 and 138 people between the ages of 18 and 65 have been diagnosed. Two people have died after contracting COVID-19.

Ferrer reiterated that because the county has a limited testing capacity, the true number of cases is likely much higher and everyone should assume they and those around them could be infected.

“The risk is spread across everybody who lives here in L.A. County and young people, while they may have a better outcome if they are healthy, are in fact one of the largest groups of people we’ve tested who are positive … and can expose others,” she said.

Twenty four hundred people have been tested, 10% of whom were found to have COVID-19, Ferrer said. The county has been testing the homeless and inmate populations and has not found any positive cases so far, but she said it is only a matter of time before cases are discovered.

“There is a lot of community spread,” she said. “When we look at what’s happening in Europe and (New York City), we know we need to be prepared for many, many new cases.”

Santa Monica’s official tally remained at two. Venice has four cases and Brentwood has 13.

Santa Monica College, which enrolls about 30,000 students, said Thursday night that a student had tested positive for the virus and three employees at Bergamot area office parks tested positive last weekend. 

It is unknown if the SMC and Bergamot cases are Santa Monica residents and therefore count toward the city’s total.

The SMC student was last on campus Thursday and is now under isolation and receiving medical treatment. Faculty, students and employees who may have had close contact with the student have been directed to self-quarantine for 14 days, SMC President Kathryn Jeffery said in an email statement. 

SMC will hold classes and support services online through June 16, Jeffery said. The college’s main campus on 1900 Pico Blvd. and all five satellite campuses — Bundy Campus, Emeritus College, the Performing Arts Campus, Airport Campus, and the Center for Media and Design — are closed to the public.

The college previously canceled classes Friday, Mar. 13 through Tuesday, Mar. 17 to provide time for faculty members, staff and students to prepare for the transition to remote instruction.

SMC remained open for business during that time and students were allowed to come to campus to access student services, computer labs and the library. Some classes that require in-person instruction continued and athletic events were held without spectators.

Thursday’s state and county orders for people to only leave home for vital reasons shuttered non-essential businesses in Santa Monica, which had already on Monday closed schools, public buildings, bars, theaters, gyms, salons, dine-in restaurants and Santa Monica Pier.

The city also put a temporary moratorium on evictions for residents and businesses financially impacted by coronavirus.

Under the state order, Santa Monicans will be only able to visit grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, restaurants offering delivery and takeout, pharmacies, convenience stores, laundromats, gas stations and banks — as long as they practice social distancing.

Newsom said people can also leave their homes to seek healthcare, care for loved ones or go for a walk.

He allowed workers in 16 critical sectors, including emergency services, transportation and information technology, to continue to go to work.

The county order prohibits residents from gathering in groups of 10 or more and closes nonessential retail stores, malls and playgrounds, including Santa Monica Place and the Third Street Promenade.

All orders are punishable as misdemeanor offenses. The county order is in place until Apr. 19 but could be extended, and the state order is in effect indefinitely.

“I know it’s confusing to see there have been lots of orders, but I want to be clear that every one of these orders is aligned on one key message: everyone who is not an essential worker must stay at home and only leave for essential activities,” Ferrer said Friday.

On Friday, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis announced that the Pomona Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center has been converted into a 244-room self-isolation center and childcare facility for first responders through the end of May. She urged similar businesses to offer housing for people with COVID-19 so they do not pass the virus on to the members of their households.

“The county is working to add more housing solutions like this across the region in response to this unprecedented pandemic,” she said.

madeleine@smdp.com

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1 Comment

  1. The article states “Thursday’s state and county orders for people to only leave home for vital reasons shuttered non-essential businesses in Santa Monica, which had already on Monday closed schools, public buildings, bars, theaters, gyms, salons, dine-in restaurants and Santa Monica Pier.”
    Please clarify: Is driving by yourself on the 405 the same as staying home?

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