With the coronavirus spreading rapidly and pushing hospitals to a crisis point, Los Angeles County officials are recommending further safety measures — going so far as to urge some residents to wear masks inside their homes.
The concern, L.A. County’s top health official says, is the danger posed to vulnerable residents when those they live with work outside the home or go out to shop or perform other essential tasks.
Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, on Monday pleaded with the public to stay at home as much as possible. When leaving home to access essential services, she said, people should bring sanitizing wipes to disinfect their cellphones, car keys, work stations and door handles — anything they might touch that others also have touched.
Ferrer also issued a new recommendation: People who live with elderly residents or with residents who have an underlying medical condition and must go out of their households should wear a mask at home.
“Because there is so much spread, we’re also recommending that people keep their face coverings on while they’re inside the home,” Ferrer said. For anyone who works outside or is the person who runs the essential errands in the family, wearing a mask at home “will just add a layer of protection while we get through the surge.”
People should also make sure that frequently touched surfaces are sanitized, utensils are not shared and, if possible, that bedrooms and bathrooms are not shared with the most vulnerable.
“This is the time to be extremely cautious and very careful,” Ferrer said. “We cannot lighten up our efforts yet — not now, and not for the next several weeks. Every minute, 10 people in L.A. County on average are testing positive for COVID-19.”
The urgent warnings come amid a post-Christmas coronavirus surge. Over the last week, an average of more than 200 Angelenos have died every day from COVID-19 — a rate that has pushed the county’s cumulative toll past 12,000.
Last week, county health officials offered these safety recommendations:
• If you’re going to work or to buy groceries, try never to remove your face covering when near others.
• Avoid eating or drinking with anyone not in your household.
• Wash or sanitize your hands every hour if you’re around others.
• Take a break from shopping.
• Don’t go to any gatherings with people outside your household.
• Exercise by yourself or only with others from your household.
Also last week, the state told Californians to eschew traveling anywhere more than 120 miles from their residences, unless doing so is essential.
Travelers from other states or countries are also “strongly discouraged” from coming to California, except for essential purposes.
The state defines such essential trips as any “associated with the operation, maintenance, or usage of critical infrastructure or otherwise required or expressly authorized by law … including work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.”