Nurses at Providence St. John's Medical Center called attention to a shortage of PPE last Friday. (Todd James)

Four Santa Monica residents tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the city to 53, public health officials said Wednesday.

Cases in both Santa Monica and Los Angeles County have more than doubled over the last week, with more than 1,000 cases confirmed in the county over the last two days alone. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, announced Wednesday 513 new cases of coronavirus for a total of 3,518 cases across the county, 733 of which have been hospitalized at some point.

Ferrer confirmed Wednesday that five people experiencing homelessness and two people working in homeless shelters have tested positive for coronavirus. She said the county is investigating 207 cases among residents and staff in 43 institutional settings.

Ferrer announced 11 deaths Wednesday, bringing the county death toll to 64. Seven people who resided in nursing homes have died since the pandemic began, she said.

Nine of the 11 deaths reported Wednesday occurred in people older than 65. One person was between 41 and 65 and another person was between 18 and 40. All 11 individuals underlying health conditions except for two people over the age of 65.

Across California, more than 8,700 people have the virus and 64 have died.

Ferrer said more than 21,000 L.A. County residents have been tested as of Tuesday, more than double how many tests had been completed a week ago. She said the number of completed tests is an undercount because the county is still waiting on some labs to report negative tests.

Two drive-through testing centers are now open on the Westside.

Primary care startup One Medical opened an open air testing center in West Los Angeles Wednesday and the city of Los Angeles opened a free testing site at the West L.A. Veteran’s Administration Lot 15 last week. Both are only testing people who are symptomatic.

One Medical, which operates several primary care offices on the Westside, is offering drive-through testing to patients who have been virtually assessed and referred for testing by its providers. The Veteran’s Administration testing center is free and open to anyone who the county system deems symptomatic or high risk.

The county has 1,438 open hospital beds, including 240 ICU beds, Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services, said Wednesday. She said the county received 320 new ventilators but has not yet had to distribute many stockpiled ventilators.

At a Wednesday news conference, Ferrer addressed new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control that members of the public can wear scarfs, bandanas or homemade masks to prevent themselves from spreading coronavirus to others. She said N95 masks and surgical masks should only be worn by medical workers and first responders because some hospitals have a shortage of masks.

“It will prevent droplets coming out of our mouths and potentially infecting others, because you can be spreading even if you have no symptoms,” Ferrer said. “But wearing a mask is not a shield and doesn’t replace requests that you stay at home, practice social distancing and (wash your hands).”

To slow the spread of coronavirus locally, Santa Monica public schools will close indefinitely and county beaches, beach bike paths and public trails will close through at least April 19, officials said last week.

City of Santa Monica parks and farmers markets are still open, but Palisades Park was closed last weekend to prevent crowding. The city’s public buildings, nonessential businesses, playgrounds, Santa Monica Pier and beach parking lots are closed through the end of April.

City Manager Rick Cole announced last week fines for individuals and businesses violating the stay at home orders that range from $100 to $1,000. Santa Monica Police Department Chief Cynthia Renaud said she has directed officers to contact, inform, educate and encourage compliance before resorting to citations.

Cole announced Wednesday that construction sites, which Gov. Gavin Newsom has deemed essential and are allowed to stay open under his Safer at Home order, must operate in accordance with social distancing and hygiene requirements.

The local order requires that handwashing facilities or hand sanitizer be installed at entrances to construction sites, shared equipment be sanitized, and workers must maintain six feet of distance from each other and not gather in groups larger than three.

The city has the authority to halt construction if the requirements are not followed, said city spokesperson Constance Farrell.


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