Los Angeles mayor urges residents to wear masks to stem the spread of coronavirus

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LOS ANGELES – The mayor of Los Angeles told everyone in the country’s second largest city on Wednesday to start wearing masks to fight coronavirus, but the governor of California is not ready to take this idea into the whole state.

Governor Gavin Newsom said on Wednesday that his focus was more on keeping people inside. He also said the state may need 66,000 more hospital beds, 16,000 more than expected, to cope with the expected illness crash in the second half of May.

At a press conference in the afternoon, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was waiting for advice from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on wearing a mask, but with the rate increasing of COVID-19, he had decided not to wait any longer.

The mayor said that the 4 million people who perform essential tasks such as shopping for food should wear homemade non-medical face covers, or even bandanas, as people in other countries have done. hit by COVID-19.

“To be clear, you should always stay at home. This is no excuse to suddenly get out of everything, “said Garcetti.

He also said that people should not use medical grade masks, which are scarce and needed by health workers and first responders.

The mayor said that even a “retracted bandana” could slow the spread of the virus and that masks are also good for reminding people to keep their distance.

“I know it will look surreal,” he said, wearing a mask. “We’re going to have to get used to seeing ourselves like that … It will be the look.” “

Los Angeles County reported more than 500 new cases on Wednesday, up 17% from the previous day.

Garcetti’s announcement came after Riverside County public health official, Dr. Cameron Kaiser, urged people who must go out in public to use something – even bandanas or neck warmers – cover the mouth and nose to protect others and themselves.

The governor was to issue guidelines for the masks, but at his own press conference, Newsom said he did not think they should be a substitute for keeping a safe distance from others and taking additional steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

“They do not replace a home stay order. They’re not a call to get people to find N95 masks or surgical masks and remove them or compete with our first responders, “said Newsom.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
California Gov. Gavin NewsomAP

Newsom has instead focused on adding thousands of more hospital beds than previously reported. He now expects to need an additional 66,000 hospital beds for the expected peak in late May, 16,000 more than his previous forecast.

In Riverside County, Kaiser said the virus is spread by droplets that can be spread by coughing or sneezing, so some type of blanket might help, even if it’s not a quality mask. hospitable.

Kaiser made the recommendation because the fourth largest county in the state is seeing infections increase faster than expected. At the current rate, he announced on Wednesday that he would be short of hospital beds on April 12 and ventilators by April 26.

“When the situation changes, the regulations change,” Kaiser said in a statement. “We are seeing our numbers increase even earlier than expected, and that means our strategy must also change. “

US and global health officials have said that people who are not healthcare professionals should not wear masks unless they are sick – to avoid infecting others.

The World Health Organization has recommended that people caring for a sick relative wear a mask. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have agreed – as long as the sick person cannot wear a mask.

But there has been a contradictory direction. Austria said this week that it would require masks for grocery buyers. President Donald Trump suggested that worried people wear a headscarf.

California public health official Dr. Sonia Angell said face covers could prevent the spread of the virus, but if worn incorrectly or handled incorrectly could cause infection. They could also cause people to lower their guard and not stay within the recommended distance of 6 feet (1.8 meters) from others.

“When we talk about potential falls, which we also need to recognize, they may be that if people wear these masks, they feel somewhat immune, they feel like they can get closer to others,” said Angell .

So far, statewide spread of the virus has been slow enough to give the state time to prepare for an expected spike in cases that could overwhelm hospitals if extreme measures were not taken. not taken to keep most people at home and away from others.

The state recorded more than 9,300 cases of the virus and 199 deaths reported on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, which maintains a global count.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, which go away within two to three weeks. For some, especially the elderly and people with health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia and death.

Newsom spoke last week of increasing state hospital beds by two-thirds to add 50,000 new beds in locations that could include convention centers and arenas to meet peak demand this month next. On Wednesday, he increased that number.

“The modeling shows that we will need about 66,000 beds by the end of May,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of the State Department of Health and Human Services, during a press conference with the governor.

Newsom had bad news for parents on Wednesday when it said schools should plan to teach distance for the rest of the school year.

State Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond provided similar advice to the districts on Tuesday evening. The decision as to whether students will return to class will ultimately depend on the school districts.

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