Jim Breslo: Coronavirus in Los Angeles – these draconian restrictions don’t make sense

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Residents of Los Angeles are scratching their heads wondering why America, including even New York City, are reopening while LA remains almost completely closed.

An unelected public health official in charge of county residents’ freedom announced that she anticipates a further reopening by July Fourth. In the meantime, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio said his city is reopening in early June. This makes no sense.

While LA is referred to as the “epicenter” of the COVID-19 outbreak in California, its numbers are in fact very low. The death rate in New York City from COVID-19 is 1 in 532. The death rate in LA County is almost 10 times less at 1 in 5,000.


California has fared far better than New York, likely because of the early shutdown of travel from China, as opposed to from Europe, warmer weather and far less density. In New York City people live in high-rises, ride in elevators, walk on crowded streets, ride in crowded subways, and shop and dine in crowded stores and restaurants.

People in LA tend to live in homes or small apartment buildings, drive their cars, and, notoriously, not walk anywhere. It has less than one-third the density of New York.

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Yet, LA’s orders remain perhaps the most draconian in the country. The county recently finally opened its beaches, the last county in the state to do so. But, sitting or lying on a county beach, even by yourself, is prohibited. You are required to wear a mask while on the beach (be careful about awkward tan lines), but the order makes clear you are permitted to remove it before going in the water (probably wise). 

Still prohibited is biking on the beach paths, with or without a mask (I guess because bikes cross paths with each other for a split second), and volleyball, even though traditionally played on the beach with just two on a team. The county also finally opened its parks and hiking trails, which had been closed for almost two months, while New York City never closed its parks.  

The Department of Health announced their first “reopening” of the county for business last week.  Local news channels excitedly announced:  “Los Angeles reopens, news at 11!”  But this “Phase I” reopening only applied to florists, toy, book, clothing, music, and sporting goods stores, and only for curbside pickup.  So much for a “reopening.”

LA’s orders remain perhaps the most draconian in the country.

I had a sense our leaders were out of touch, but I did not realize the extent.  We now buy our books on something called the “Internet” through a “website” called “Amazon,” or simply download them to a tablet.  Music stores went out of business long ago due to Amazon and something called “streaming.”  We usually buy our toys and sporting goods on Amazon also. 

Now, opening clothing stores would be nice since we like to browse the latest styles and try them on for size and fit before buying.  But the state and county are not permitting us to go into the store.  Rather, we must call ahead to order the item, and then pick it up “curbside.”  That is not helpful.  That is what the Internet is for. 

Even to reopen for the limited purpose of curbside pickup, the Department of Public Health issued “Reopening Protocol” which must be met. This includes over 30 itemized requirements, under headings such as, “Workplace Policies and Practices to Protect Employee Health,” “Measures to Ensure Social Distancing,” “Measures for Infection Control,” “Measures that Communicate to the Public,” and “Measures that Ensure Equitable Access to Critical Services.”


Mayor Eric Garcetti announced last week that he is extending the “reopening” to pet groomers and car washes.  Pets’ hair is now looking good; humans, not so much.  Churches remain shuttered, while liquor and weed stores have been deemed “essential” and were never closed.  At the same time, he announced that restrictions will remain in place until a “cure” is found.  Experts caution this will likely take over a year if it comes at all.  In the meantime, residents continue to suffer under the reign of Garcetti and the unelected health official.

Who is she?  Her name is Dr. Barbara Ferrer.  According to her biography, she is a philanthropic strategist, educational leader and community advocate.  She works “to improve population outcomes through efforts that build health and education equity.”  She served as the chief strategy officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, focusing on things like, “Family Economic Security,” “Racial Equity,” and “Community Engagement.”  She has a Ph.D. in social welfare from Brandeis University, and a bachelor of arts in community studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

These are excellent credentials to teach at a liberal university, but not so good to be given the keys to the largest county by GDP ($710 billion) in the United States. She states that the LA County Department of Public Health is “committed to reducing health disparities.” By confining all residents to their homes, she is certainly demonstrating that commitment. The cost, and infringement on Angelenos’ basic liberties, apparently are of far lesser concern.


The U.S. Department of Justice is now riding in to protect Angelenos’ liberties. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Dreiband has written to Garcetti and Ferrer, stating their extensive and extended orders appear “arbitrary and unlawful.” Government power, Dreiband noted, “is not limitless, and must be exercised reasonably.”

“Simply put,” he said, “there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution.”


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