Public Health director discusses extension of quarantine measures; county says order will be ‘continuously considered’

Los Angeles County Seal.

During the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, county Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said some stay-at-home restrictions could be extended for months, prompting a flurry of media reports and public reaction.

County officials, followed by Ferrer herself issued a clarification shortly thereafter, saying the statements were not equivalent to a formal extension of the most restrictive version of the stay-at-home order.

“Unless there was a dramatic change in this virus and the tools that we have a hand to actually fight against this virus, there’s no way that we could, in fact, see us not needing to continue with a set of restrictions,” Ferrer said Tuesday, when called in to discuss motions related to tenant-protection extensions. 

At the time, Ferrer didn’t specify whether the extension would be some sort of eased restrictions as expected, but she added that some restrictions are expected to stay in place for at least the next few months.

“I do think recovery will be months long, based on the tools that we have at hand today,” Ferrer added.

Without widely available and effective therapeutic medicines or rapid testing that would allow everyone to test themselves daily, Ferrer said it is the stay-at-home restrictions and contact tracing that form the biggest part of community mitigation efforts for COVID-19. 

Even so, Ferrer said Public Health’s decisions will continue to be driven by the COVID-19 data, while the hope is to use that data to slowly lift restrictions over the next three months.

Ferrer later clarified her remarks, adding, “L.A. County is continuing its progress on the road to recovery, with planned reopening of beaches for active recreation and an expansion of permitted retail activities coming tomorrow. While the ‘Safer at Home’ orders will remain in place over the next few months, restrictions will be gradually relaxed under our 5-stage Roadmap to Recovery, while making sure we are keeping our communities as safe as possible during this pandemic.

“We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way — one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place,” Ferrer added. “We’re counting on the public’s continued compliance with the orders to enable us to relax restrictions, and we are committed to making sure that L.A. County is in the best position to provide its 10 million residents with the highest level of wellness possible as we progressively get back to normal.”

The Board of Supervisors also issued a statement in response to several media reports that suggested the county was extending the “Safer at Home” order until the end of July:  

“During testimony at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting regarding the extension of rent and mortgage relief, Dr. Ferrer indicated that there would be a health officer order in place over the next few months while we gradually relax the order.

“During this time, we will still move forward with our efforts to ease restrictions aligned with appropriate public health safety protocols,” the statement read. “Changes to the order will be continuously considered after reviewing the data every three to four weeks during this time.”

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, agreed, adding, “During today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Dr. Barbara Ferrer indicated that the county’s health officer order would be in place over the next few months. Unfortunately, this statement was taken out of context and has understandably caused great concern by the public. Relaxing the restrictions in the ‘Safer at Home’ order is an important focus for the county, which will be done gradually over the next few months.” 

“I am eager to reopen more of L.A. County as soon as it’s safe to do so, in collaboration with our health experts, community leaders, businesses and residents, with best practices in place to ensure our overall health and well-being,” Barger added. “These decisions will be guided by the latest science and data collected. I’m confident that the more our communities continue to comply, the sooner we can resume normalcy.”

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