Stay-at-home directive extended through May 15, masks now ordered in Santa Clarita

A man wearing gloves and mask joins the line of shoppers as thye wait for Ralphs Super Market to open in Castaic on Tuesday morning. Dan Watson/The Signal

Stay-at-home orders across Los Angeles County have been extended for another month through May 15, county Department of Public Health officials said Friday. 

“Extending ‘safer at home’ really means that we’re able to keep in place the measures that we know, at this point in time, are working and preventing a huge acceleration of cases of COVID-19,” said  Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer during a Friday county live briefing. 

The extended order comes as the county neared the one-month mark since the first stay-at-home directive was issued. That order had been scheduled to expire on April 19.

On March 19, the county and Gov. Gavin Newsom established similar orders in an effort to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.  

Just after the county’s announcement, Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth held a city live briefing, addressing the prolonged directive and saying that it would also apply to Santa Clarita, as the city follows Public Health’s guidelines. 

“All this does is extend the current restrictions around social distancing and essential and nonessential businesses,” said Smyth. “This order is not in place or not being extended because what we’re doing isn’t working. It’s being extended because what we are doing in Los Angeles County, California, (and) Santa Clarita is working.” 

Those practicing social distancing and staying at home countywide have helped keep the curve much flatter than if most residents did not do so, Christina Ghaly, director of health services for the county, said on Friday.  

“If physical distancing doesn’t continue, similarly, we would project that… by the middle of the summer, virtually all residents in Los Angeles County would have been exposed or infected with COVID-19,” she said, adding that projections show an infection rate of 96% among all county residents without physical distancing efforts. 

Wearing face masks now ordered 

The mayor also said that due to the county’s mandate issued Friday, face masks are now ordered for individuals and essential workers. His announcement comes just two days after he said wearing them was not mandatory because the county had not yet established an order.  

“If you want to take your dog for a walk or you want to walk by yourself or go for a solo jog through your neighborhood, you do not have to wear a mask,” he said. “But if you are going to be engaging or if you’re going to be walking with your family unit, it probably makes sense to bring your masks and to wear them; if you think you’re going to come in contact with other members of the community.”

The delay for the county, which has about 10 million residents, to issue a mandate for wearing face masks comes as access to respirators has been limited. 

While state efforts to secure 200 million N95 respirators and surgical masks are underway for frontline workers, Smyth and health officials reiterated that the rest of the public can don cloth face coverings, including handmade ones. 

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