Photo by Matthew Hall

Six new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Santa Monica Friday for a total of 88 cases in the city, or about 9.5 per 10,000 residents.

The uptick in cases marked the beginning of the fourth week of the outbreak in Santa Monica. Cases rose 32% in the third week after quintupling in the first week and tripling in the second, leading local officials to suggest that Santa Monica has started to flatten the curve of infections. Although Friday saw a significant increase in confirmed cases, the total increase over the last seven days stands at a modest 35%.

On Friday, Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, extended the county stay at home order to May 15 after announcing 475 new cases across the county, bringing the total to 8,430. In Santa Monica, nonessential businesses, public buildings and schools, beaches, playgrounds and Palisades Park are closed.

While other public parks and Santa Monica Farmers Markets remain open, the city will close parks Sunday and farmers markets Saturday and Sunday to prevent people from congregating in public to celebrate Easter.

Ferrer said the stay at home order is flattening the curve, but continued physical distancing is necessary because of the county’s sheer number of infections and rate of spread.

“I do not anticipate that we lift all of our restrictions on May 15, but I know every day we get closer and closer to a place where we can start relaxing some of our restrictions,” she said. “(The modeling) shows we will still see an increase in cases and unfortunately people will continue to die, and until we get to the other side … we have to take every precaution possible.”

If L.A. County lifted the stay at home order, nearly all county residents would be exposed or infected with the virus by August, said Christina Ghaly, director of the L.A. County Department of Health Services.

Maintaining current physical distancing efforts through the summer would result in one in three county residents being exposed or infected, which would drop significantly if stricter physical distancing measures are implemented, Ghaly said.

Ferrer also announced an order requiring essential businesses to provide their workers with cloth masks and share with them plans to ensure compliance with physical distancing and sanitary requirements. The order, which goes into effect Wednesday, also requires customers to wear face coverings. The city of Santa Monica announced a similar order earlier this week that took effect Friday.

An additional 18 deaths were confirmed Friday. Ten people were older than 65, seven were between 41 and 65 and one was between 18 and 40. The death toll now stands at 241 and the mortality rate is 2.9%. Sixty-seven people who have died resided in institutions, making up 28% of all deaths.

Ferrer said 2,043 people with coronavirus have been hospitalized at some point, representing about 24% of cases. Of the 1,331 people are hospitalized, 40% are in the ICU and 31% are on a ventilator, she said.

The county currently has 1,400 available ventilators, Ghaly said. She said the county’s private and public health systems are projected to be able to accommodate all the patients that need care for COVID-19 over the next month. An additional 400 to 500 ICU beds will be needed, but efforts to fill that gap are already underway.

The county is investigating 1,062 cases across 159 institutional settings, including eight jail inmates and 12 prison inmates, Ferrer said. Three people residing in homeless shelters have tested positive out of 18 total cases reported among the homeless population.

In Santa Monica, The Manor, The Rehabilitation Center of Santa Monica and Beachwood Post-Acute and Rehab have at least one confirmed case and are under investigation.

Ferrer said the county plans to test a random sample of 1,000 adults for COVID-19 using antibody tests, which can tell if an individual was infected but didn’t develop symptoms or recovered from their illness.

The study will assess the true penetration of coronavirus in L.A. County and help officials decide when to lift the stay at home order, she said. As of Friday, more than 40,000 county residents have been tested and 15% have tested positive.

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