LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County health officials confirmed 46 more cases of coronavirus today, while Long Beach officials identified two more, while authorities urged continued social distancing and announced plans to extend the availability of winter shelter beds.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, head of the county Department of Public Health said the 46 new cases reported by the agency bring the county's total to 190 patients. The two new cases in Long Beach -- which maintains its own health department and has a total of 10 patients -- were not included in the county's figures, meaning the countywide total is actually 192.
The new figures mean that nearly 100 new cases have been reported in the area in the past 48 hours, but Ferrer urged residents not to get discouraged or get the idea that social distancing efforts aren't working.
"Because we cannot stop the spread of COVID-19, all of our strategies are aimed at slowing the spread," she said. "We need to work hard to make sure that happens. ... This is what you often hear as flattening the curve."
Only one death from coronavirus has been reported in Los Angeles County.
Ferrer thanked residents for their efforts avoiding large gatherings, remaining home and distancing themselves from others. She noted, however, that the mandates don't mean people cannot leave their homes.
"Everyone should remain at home as much as possible," she said, adding that "you should, however, feel free to take a walk, a hike, a run -- just not with a group of people."
While again stressing the heightened danger of the virus to people over 65, she hailed efforts by grocery stores to provide them with specialized times to shop. But she said, "The safest option for all seniors is to have food and medicine and essential services delivered to them in their homes."
Long Beach health officials said the city's 10 total cases do not include a patient who was diagnosed with the virus at the Veterans Affairs Long Beach Healthcare System, because the patient is not a Long Beach resident. The hospital confirmed the patient's diagnosis Tuesday, announcing that it will no longer allow visitors in the medical center.
"This is not an easy decision to make, but given the risks to our veterans, their families and our communities, we feel we must," according to the hospital.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the county is working to provide additional protection for the homeless in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. As part of that effort, the county plans to extend its winter shelter program -- which normally ends March 31 -- until the end of April.
Solis said it is "more urgent than ever to expand our capacity" to provide housing, noting that there are 7,000 interim housing beds in place, and the county is "working to put thousands more online over the next few weeks and months."
The county is also continuing to evaluate sites that can be used for temporary housing facilities.
The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday reviewed a variety of measures aimed at providing services for the homeless in light of the virus. The council approved a temporary measure that will allow the homeless to keep their tents in place during daytime hours. The city normally requires the tents to be taken down during the day.
The city and the county have both issued emergency moratoriums on residential and commercial evictions, providing protections for residents who may be unable to pay their rent on time due to work lost because of widespread business closures.
Under the moratorium, tenants would be given up to six months to repay missed rent.
City and county officials have both insisted they are working to provide financial relief for businesses that have been forced to close because of the virus. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday announced an $11 million loan program, while county officials said they are working to help businesses apply for emergency loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"While the Small Business Administration is not at the county level, we will be working with state and federal representatives and our partner agencies," county Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Tuesday. "... We do not want any business to fall through the cracks."
Meanwhile, all Los Angeles County Superior Court courthouses and courtrooms will remain closed to the public until Friday.
Between Friday and April 16, courtrooms will generally remain closed, but with a long list of exceptions for necessary court proceedings, such as restraining order hearings, emergency custody issues, arraignments, criminal preliminary hearings, sentencing hearings and emergency orders "relating to the health and safety of a child."
Jury trials will also be on hold until mid-April.
Ferrer has repeatedly stressed the building threat of "community transmission" of the coronavirus, meaning people are being infected without any known source of exposure. Such transmission often means that patients are being exposed to people who have the illness but are unaware they are infected.
In addition to closing bars and ordering restaurants to eliminate dine-in service, the county has also ordered the closure of all fitness centers, entertainment centers, bowling alleys and movie theaters. Under the order, restaurants are restricted to takeout or delivery service.
The mandate applies to all cities within the county, as well as unincorporated areas. Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own health departments, have also issued the same requirements.
On Wednesday morning, California health officials reported a total of 598 coronavirus cases statewide and 13 deaths.