(AP) – Los Angeles County announced a new stay-home order Friday as coronavirus cases surged out of control in the nation’s most populous county, banning most gatherings but stopping short of a full shutdown on retail stores and other non-essential businesses.
The three-week “safer at home" order takes effect Monday. It came as the county of 10 million residents confirmed 24 new deaths and 4,544 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The county had set a threshold for issuing the stay-home order: an average of 4,500 cases a day over a five-day period, but hadn't expected to reach that level until next month.
However, the five-day average of new cases reported Friday was 4,751.
“We know we are asking a lot from so many who have been sacrificing for months on end,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “Acting with collective urgency right now is essential if we want to put a stop to this surge.”
The order advises residents to stay home “as much as possible” and to wear a face covering when they go out. It bans people from gathering with others who aren’t in their households, whether publicly or privately.
However, exceptions are made for church services and protests, “which are constitutionally protected rights,” the county Department of Public Health said in a statement.
Indoor retail businesses, which make much of their profits during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons, are allowed to remain open but with just 20% of capacity, including nail salons and other personal care services.