The number of Santa Monica residents with coronavirus reached 82 Thursday as city officials said people working and shopping in essential businesses must wear face coverings to slow the spread of the virus.
The rate of new infections has slowed in Santa Monica as the third week of the local outbreak comes to a close, with public health officials announcing Thursday just one new confirmed case in the city. Cases quintupled from four to 21 in the first week and tripled to 62 in the second week, but rose by just 32% in the third week.
About nine out of every 10,000 Santa Monica residents have the virus, which roughly aligns with the median per capita cases among all Westside communities. The Westside has a high penetration of coronavirus compared to the rest of the county, in part because it has a more affluent population with better access to testing and is more likely to have traveled recently.
“We’re managing to not let this explode as exponentially as it might have,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said Wednesday at a Zoom town hall hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. The county has not notified the city of any residents who have died, McKeown added.
In an effort to continue flattening the curve, the city of Santa Monica issued an order Wednesday night that requires people working and shopping at essential businesses to wear face coverings.
The order, which will go into effect Friday and last through the end of April, requires employers to provide or cover the cost of face coverings for employees and allow them to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes. Customers are also required to wear face coverings.
The local order follows a Tuesday order from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and similar actions from other cities and counties across California. City spokesperson Constance Farrell said all Santa Monica residents are also encouraged but not required to wear face coverings whenever they are outside their homes.
Santa Monica’s nonessential businesses, public buildings and schools, beaches and playgrounds remain closed to slow the spread of the virus. Santa Monica Pier and Palisades Park are closed, but other public parks are open. Santa Monica Farmers Markets are open to the public with enhanced physical distancing controls.
The city will temporarily close parks Sunday and farmers markets Saturday and Sunday, officials said Thursday. Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles will also close parks on Easter in order to prevent people from gathering to celebrate the holiday.
“This is a critical week that requires we take aggressive steps like temporarily closing all parks for a day,” said City Manager Rick Cole. “We’re also reluctantly suspending our farmers markets because we need people to stay home to crush the curve. Lives of loved ones and the ability to reopen our community both depend on bold action now.”
The virus continued its march throughout L.A County with 425 new cases confirmed Thursday, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 7,955.
Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, announced 25 deaths Thursday, bringing the death toll to 223. The mortality rate rose again to 2.8%, she said.
Nearly 1,900 people with coronavirus have at some point been hospitalized, representing 24% of positive cases, Ferrer said. Of those who are hospitalized, 25% to 35% have required a ventilator. More than 1,000 ventilators are available in L.A. County, officials said earlier this week.
Eight new cases were confirmed among roughly 60,0000 people experiencing homelessness in L.A. County. A total of 20 people experiencing homelessness have tested positive, four of whom resided in shelters.
The county is investigating 716 cases in 155 institutional settings, Ferrer said. 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.
County and city officials launched a number of assistance programs this week for those impacted by coronavirus as the number of Californians who have lost work during the pandemic reached nearly 3 million.
The county launched a $500,000 relief fund for small businesses, supplementing Small Business Administration loan programs that turn into grants if businesses use the assistance to cover payroll.
The county announced on Wednesday that it will deliver groceries and households items to older adults and individuals with disabilities for free. Participants must place their own orders by phone or online and pay for supplies before scheduling a delivery at 1-888-863-7411.
The city of Santa Monica on Thursday launched the We Are Santa Monica Innovation Fund, which will provide funding to nonprofit organizations and the city to obtain sanitary and medical supplies, provide food and shelter to those in need and support volunteer relief efforts.