While LA officials have pressed residents to stay home, they have stopped short of ordering it. | Getty Images

At midnight, all non-critical retail businesses and playgrounds must close

Los Angeles County is ordering non-essential retailers to close and for residents to stop gathering in groups of 10 or more as it hustles to stop the community spread of the novel coronavirus.

In announcing the “safer-at-home” order this evening, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger implored residents “not to panic.” She said residents will still be able to go for walks and shop for groceries and pick up medicine.

It “does not mean restrictions from going outside,” Barger said, and “it does not mean isolation.”

The cities of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Pasadena announced similar orders. (View a fact sheet on the city of Los Angeles order here). The orders will be in effect at midnight until April 19 but may be extended.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also issued a statewide “stay-at-home” order tonight with similar provisions. It will be in place “until further notice.”

Under LA’s order, all “nonessential” retail businesses, including indoor malls, must close, along with playgrounds. Gatherings of 10 or more people in enclosed spaces will be prohibited. The county had already ordered the closure of bars, movie theaters, gyms, and entertainment venues. Restaurants must remain take-out only.

Grocery stores, healthcare providers, outdoor farmers markets, gas stations, and dry cleaners can stay open. News media, food delivery companies, electricians, plumbers, healthcare operators, and transportation services are allowed to keep operating. But they all must institute social distancing practices, according to Los Angeles County Health Department director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

LA County residents had already been urged to hunker down. But officials had not gone so far as to mandate it. Health orders are legally-binding, meaning violators can be cited for a misdemeanor. But officials said they would take a “light touch” to enforcement and are asking residents to self-comply for the health and safety of the entire community.

“This is not a request—this is an order,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “There are too many people who were in work situations, retail situations, where they were coming into contact [with potential carriers.]”

Garcetti stressed that the order is not a “shelter-in-place” directive and is not a lockdown, those are terms, he said, that should be reserved for incidents like school shootings.

It was issued hours after the public health department announced a second death and 40 new cases of COVID-19. The number of cases in Los Angeles County now stands at 231.

“I know how stressful this is to each one of us… we’re about to enter into a new way of living in Los Angeles for a period,” the mayor said, noting that he made the decision with a “heavy heart.”

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Source: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CurbedLA