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Mayor Garcetti: 'We Cannot Move Too Fast' With Reopening

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti specified today that local governments have the right to decide how and when to begin reopening efforts, regardless of what the state allows. "The state permits certain things, but it doesn't prescribe them," he said, referencing Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement that some changes to stay-at-home policies would be announced this Friday.

The mayor said that he supports reopening some low-risk places, like hiking trails and flower shops (for Mother's Day). But he made it clear that the city will be extremely cautious when making these decisions and will act independently of any statewide regulation changes.

"I hope later this week, that city's leaders (and I say that plurally, for many cities around here), as well as our county leaders, can stand together as we did at the outset of this and talk about how we'll take those steps together."

He specifically clarified that when people hear or read that "the state is opening up on Friday," that doesn't mean Los Angeles is going to reopen all businesses. "What the state has said, is local governments can decide
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starting from Friday, how and when to open up with these guardrails," he said.

The mayor also made clear that "we cannot go too fast." He acknowledged that there are some people who are frustrated and want businesses to reopen now; but he said polls show that the majority of Americans are more concerned that opening up too fast could launch a second wave of the virus.

"You see, if we go too fast, and we see cases go up and we see people begin to die in bigger numbers, and we even see our hospital system overwhelmed, that's worse than going forward the right way, just a little bit slower. And that's going to guide me every single day."

Garcetti also said that this virus has been a learning experience and that the city has to act accordingly, and change policies when needed. Construction, for instance, was allowed when stay-at-home orders were first announced, but then it became clear that workers were not wearing personal protective equipment. The city responded by sending inspectors to different sites, in order to keep construction projects going. A similar strategy was used for farmers markets, which were at first allowed to stay open, and then, after reports of crowding, closely monitored and allowed to operate only when they could produce specific plans to mitigate transmission among patrons.

In addition to trails and other "low risk" spaces, the mayor said he supports opening some city streets for walking and biking.

He also said he has given permission to the Flower District downtown, to prepare to reopen in time for Mother's Day, explaining that the city would use a similar strategy with wholesale flower shops as they do with farmers markets.

He added that the area will be strictly monitored by the public health department (inspections will be done as well) and that if social distancing is not followed, they will re-evaluate.

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This reopening policy will only apply to wholesale flower vendors, which are technically under the umbrella of agricultural businesses like farmers markets. The mayor said he would follow the county's guidelines on retail businesses moving forward.

Curbside retail, he said, is something the city may allow next week, or more likely, the following week.

"I'm sorry, we're not going to be moving on those things this Friday," Garcetti said.

"We've talked to big retailers, we've been talking to outdoor and indoor malls. We have to get this right. Look at other states who said, 'Open movie theaters or restaurants.' And the great majority of movie theaters and restaurants are saying, 'No thank you, we're not ready to do that yet.'"

He added: "We want to make sure that we don't do something reckless and say, 'Hey, we got out there a week or two weeks early,' just to score political points."

OTHER UPDATES:

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  • In response to a question about small group gatherings, the mayor said, "We do not permit people to get together right now," adding that the perception that it's OK to hang out in a "bubble" of friends is a misperception.
  • L.A. is still not at full hospital capacity, which has improved the outcome locally — we have not seen hospitals being overwhelmed like the ones in New York or Italy, during the peak of the pandemic, he said.
  • The mayor announced a new initiative called L.A. Represents, which will provide pro-bono legal services to Los Angeles residents who are "facing hardships caused by COVID-19," such as vulnerable renters, survivors of domestic abuse, low income families, undocumented families and small businesses. More information is available at coronavirus.lacity.org/larepresents.

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