LOS ANGELES – Sunshine drew crowds to California’s beaches and parks on Sunday despite a statewide stay-at-home order, leading to further closings as officials announced plans to step up testing for the coronavirus.
Santa Monica closed oceanfront parking lots to deter people from visiting its famous beach, and Los Angeles was due to do the same in neighboring Venice Beach starting Monday to help curb the spread of the virus.
Most of the people on the sand made sure to follow the guidelines to stay 6 feet away from others. But spacing became an issue in popular areas like Venice’s Promenade, leading Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to reprimand visitors for “being too close together too often”.
“The longer we do this, the more people will get sick and more people will die,” Garcetti said at an evening press conference.
Dozens of parks, trails, and facilities in the Los Angeles area that were overseen by the Mountain Recreation and Conservation Authority were closed on Sunday.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, authorities have closed Drakes Beach, Agate Beach, and other popular coastal locations, including Point Reyes Lighthouse and Chimney Rock Headlands.
President Donald Trump passed a major disaster statement on Sunday in support of California’s COVID-19 preparedness and emergency response. The move will free up federal funds to help with mass supplies and emergency aid, unemployment assistance and legal assistance in the event of disasters.
Trump also announced that he had ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send mobile hospital centers to California, Washington and New York.
When the U.S. Navy ship Mercy arrives in Los Angeles, it will open 1,000 beds and become the city’s largest hospital, Garcetti said. The time of the ship’s arrival was not disclosed.
The mayor said the city will set up a website this week that will direct people to centers where they can be tested for the virus. The first tests would be reserved for the “most vulnerable people,” including those with symptoms, those aged 65 and over, and those with pre-existing conditions, the mayor said.
In neighboring Riverside County, testing began this weekend in a drive-through facility outside a minor league ballpark in Lake Elsinore.
Governor Gavin Newsom’s order last week that Californians should stay home to contain the pandemic in the nation’s most populous state was by far the most comprehensive and was followed by similar announcements in New York and Illinois.
California is one of the hardest hit states, with more than 1,600 confirmed cases and 30 deaths on Sunday, according to a record from Johns Hopkins University.
Newsom has said that COVID-19 virus infection rates are doubling every four days in some areas. He predicted that millions could contract the virus in the next two months if aggressive prevention is not taken.
Newsom ordered $ 42 million in emergency funding to allow the state to rent two hospitals – Seton Medical Center in Daly City and St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles – for three months to serve patients with COVID-19 supply.
The emergency fund will also be used to buy or refurbish ventilators, provide more patient transportation services, and expand testing capacity in a government laboratory.
Residents were instructed to stay away from others, not to gather in groups, and to wash their hands frequently. They can get food, fill out prescriptions, seek medical help, look after vulnerable relatives or neighbors, and get exercise, such as going for a walk.
Petrol stations, supermarkets and convenience stores were open, as were auto repair shops. Those who did important services, such as plumbers and electricians, continued to work. But restaurants only delivered or offered take-away.