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Mayor Garcetti To LA: Bars Should Close, Eviction Moratorium Coming

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A bartender works at a bar in Grand Central Market earlier today. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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BREAKING NEWS TONIGHT: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a moratorium on evictions and wide bans on businesses and entertainment facilities tonight just minutes after L.A. County officials announced they were shutting down all offices to the public starting tomorrow.

Read more details about what the orders mean for you:

Updates on the response to the coronavirus outbreak at the local, state, and federal levels are coming fast. To help keep pace, we're checking in with government leaders on a regular basis. Here's the latest information from L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, from an interview today.

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[Note: After talking to us, Garcetti told CNN bars would be shutting today in the city.]

HOW DO PEOPLE PAY RENT?

With a lot of people in Southern California suddenly out of work and worried about making rent or paying their mortgage, leaders at all levels are taking steps to provide assistance.

At the local level, Garcetti said the city's planning to implement an eviction moratorium so that nobody gets kicked out of their home if they can't make rent because of the impact from coronavirus.

He also pointed to last week's announcement of a moratorium on utility cutoffs, so no one will go without water or power. He said he was pleased to see that the gas company joined the moratorium yesterday.

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Garcetti also stressed the need to continue supporting local businesses. Individuals can help by safely shopping or picking up food from local businesses. The city aims to help with locally funded bridge loans, which he said could roll out toward the beginning of this week.

But Garcetti said he's also a strong advocate of federal support, because "we have pennies compared to the dollars of federal government."

He said the federal government can and should be assisting with sick leave and family leave, making sure unemployment checks move more quickly, and providing additional funding for SNAP, the program formerly known as food stamps.

And at the state level, Garcetti said, the governor has done a good job ensuring unemployment payments are processed quickly and looking for ways to potentially put off tax payments for small businesses.

WHAT ARE HOSPITALS DOING TO PREPARE?

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Health care is normally a county responsibility, but in this case Garcetti said he is working closely with Supervisor Kathryn Barger to plan ahead.

Some of the areas Garcetti said they're looking into:

  • Testing: Garcetti said they agree there are still shortcomings here. The good news, he said, is that 75% of the tests coming back from county labs are negative. But we need more tests and a better protocol, Garcetti said. The tests that do exist are being taken to those most vulnerable. But there are almost certainly people who have been exposed who are not being tested. To help address that issue, Garcetti said the city and county are beginning to look beyond the federal government and reaching out directly to the private sector for additional testing, since Southern California has a wealth of biomedical experts and companies.
  • Hospital staff: We'll have trouble dealing with this crisis if health care professionals can't go to work, so Garcetti said they're looking into ways to tend to the childcare needs of hospital staff and making sure they have the equipment they need. Hospitals currently have a mask supply for about 20 days — good, not great, Garcetti said. In addition, hospitals have "almost to a tee" put off elective surgeries so they can focus on people who have contracted COVID-19.
  • Space and equipment: Another important area of focus is ensuring there are enough respirators, beds and equipment for everyone. Today the situation is OK, and more equipment is on the way. However, there could be as many as 15 million people nationally who need hospital beds over a period of time. That's a huge demand on hospitals, so the city has offered some other spaces, like the convention center, and the county's working at Dockweiler Beach, to help with initial screenings.

DOES THE CITY NEED BACKUP?

With a lot of staff and emergency responders working overtime, we asked if it was time to call in support from agencies like the Army Corps of Engineers.

Garcetti was dubious, pointing out that the Army Corps of Engineers was itself likely stretched thin. Instead, he said the governor could potentially call on the National Guard to help supplement and screen people if there are staff shortages. And he said the city has reached out to the local building trade, citing a strong local construction force who could help stand up tents, equipment, and the like.

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Garcetti also said there's a lot that can be done to mobilize additional resources here locally. Under a state of emergency, the mayor is deputized by the city charter to enlist any city employees and even residents and assign them to help, he said. City workers who won't be working their traditional jobs — like senior centers, libraries, school nurses — could be converted to a floating pool of labor that can be deployed to the health care response. Though it's an option, Garcetti said we're not at a place of mass enlistment.

HOW CAN WE HELP EACH OTHER?

Garcetti stressed that this is an emergency unlike what Southern Californians are used to, where first responders take the lead in responding to earthquakes or fires. Instead:

"We're all first responders this time," Garcetti said. "Literally what we do in the next couple of weeks — of listening to that social distancing, of saying no to that trip, of that gathering, of just putting things off — means the difference between whether this is weeks or months."

Take that seriously, Garcetti said. He went on a hike at Griffith Park this morning, making sure to keep plenty of distance between himself and others. But later he saw people outside a church shaking hands.

Make those tough decisions for the next couple weeks not to engage in that, and you can be a life saver, he said.

"And for everybody who thinks, 'Hey, it's not going to hit me' or 'I'm healthy enough to get through this' — it's not just about you. It's about your loved one. It's about your parents and your grandparents. It's about senior neighbors that you have. It's about those we know who are being treated for cancer, or underlying conditions. You will save their lives by what you do right now."

Finally, Garcetti said that by the end of the day or early tomorrow, the city will have places set up to receive donations to help families in need and health care workers so that they can continue showing up to work.

He also said there will be efforts to do real-time research to assess what's going on, and more equipment purchases will be made.

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