LOS ANGELES — Cities in Southeast Los Angeles County have moved decisively to try and contain the spread of the coronavirus in the region, declaring municipal emergencies, closing schools, banning public gatherings and events, and closing libraries.
The measures to slow the contagion came amid reports of the first batch of patients who caught the virus, and a woman who died at Lynwood’s St. Francis Medical Center shortly after being hospitalized.
All cities reduced, or outright canceled municipal services after California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued health directives March 16 to control the pandemic. Newsom also ordered all wineries, bars and nightclubs to remain closed, allowing restaurants to only sell food to go.
The declaration of emergency permits cities to access state and federal funds streamlined to combat infections and cases related to the disease.
With the exception of grocery stores, banks, food centers, pharmacies, gas stations, hospitals, clinics, police and fire stations and news media operations, the rest of businesses are mandated to close, as municipalities set hotlines to file complaints and report nonessential commercial activities.
On March 22, Lywnood confirmed its first COVID-19 death, and recorded a second patient tested positive for coronavirus.
The city declared a public health emergency until May 15, ordered restaurants and bars to prepare food only for take-out, and will forgo penalties on residents unable to pay water and sewer bills for 60 days, keeping services uninterrupted during this period.
Paramount confirmed two coronavirus cases, halted beauty parlors and personal grooming shops, and closed its swap meet. The city teleconferenced its March 17 council meeting, and asked viewers to pose questions and address the council online.
Paramount also has waved city parking citations during street sweepings until further notice, but warned trash can cause its public safety officers to issue citations and force car removals.
Whittier logged its first three coronavirus infections, declared a local emergency, mandated closure of nonessential business to mitigate virus spread and banned public and private gatherings with 10 people or more.
“We remain vigilant and engaged in the latest developments,” Whittier Mayor Joe Vinatieri said.
South Gate has had one reported coronavirus infection. The city postponed its 2020 Azalea Festival, canceled its sports programs and classes, closed facilities, but will keep its lunchtime program at the Margaret Travis Senior Center for take-home meals.
Pico Rivera recorded one coronavirus case, and in synch with safer at home orders from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, closed City Hall, its community centers, and postponed parks and recreation classes “out of an abundance of caution.”
The senior center and its lunch program were closed, but food is provided to enrollees in the meals program. Golf courses and parks also are closed, but walking paths remain open, subject to social distancing.
“This decision did not come lightly,” Pico Rivera Mayor Gustavo Camacho said.
However, the health and welfare of our residents, our participants and especially our most vulnerable population, senior and children, are of the outmost importance.”
Downey proclaimed a city emergency March 24, closed its City Hall and maintenance yard to the public, launched a seniors’ wellness check program, ordered staff to wear latex gloves and closed the Columbia Space Memorial Center and the Barbara J. Riley Community and Senior Center.
It also reported its first coronavirus case, and announced it will teleconference its next three council meetings.
The Downey Unified School District will remain closed from March 16 to May 5, and all concerts at the Downey Civic Theatre, city and local businesses events were canceled or postponed from March 20 until May 10.
Councilman Sean Ashton said the wellness program is coordinated with the 911 emergency service for the nearly 14,000 elderly residents living in Downey’s retirement housing “to ensure they have the necessities that they may need.” The city’s farmers market will continue operations each Saturday at 9 a.m.
Norwalk reported one coronavirus resident, declared a municipal emergency, set up an emergency hotline, pledged to offer essential services at City Hall by appointment, and suspended ticketing for parked cars during street sweepings. The city dropped fares in public buses until further notice.
In response to county health department guidelines, Norwalk canceled all recreational activities and gatherings at the Norwalk Senior Center, but will give meals to seniors. Classes at Cerritos College were suspended.
Bellflower reported three cases of coronavirus, announced the closure of all its facilities, postponed or canceled city events and recreation classes until the second week of April, and ordered the Bellflower Unified School District to shut down. Matching county directives, all its fitness and entertainment centers will remain closed.
Santa Fe Springs banned all gatherings with 10 people, canceled events and programs until May 31, rolled out special pickups for medical and dental visits, and extended library due dates until April 24 without penalties.
Cudahy postponed its council meetings until April 7, while Bell Gardens closed all its facilities until further notice, dropped all nonessential events and issued directions to remain safe at home.
Huntington Park declared a local emergency, banned all gatherings, closed city Hall and said it will continue its home-delivered meals only for members enrolled before March 16. Showers and the gym at its community park are banned, while trolley and shuttles run without interruption with free fares until further notice.
The city of Commerce activated an emergency operations center, closed City Hall, increased disinfectant rounds in running municipal buses, canceled activities at its senior center and launched a take-home meal program for the elderly with home deliveries.
The city’s four libraries will stay closed to the public, but residents can return books and other item at drop-off containers installed outside each facility. Patrons can check items online, and pick them at each site. The city also ordered social distancing of six-feet at restaurants where patrons buy food, prohibited dine-ins and started a free-meal programs for students and people with disabilities.
Maywood has agreed to temporarily suspend overnight parking enforcement, closed its City Hall to the public, and canceled its March workshops on tenant rights, gardening and coffee with a cop. City council and commission meetings are on schedule, will be streamed online, while public participation and questions are being limited to phone calls or emails.
Public information officer Giselle Delgado said Maywood signed its public declaration of emergency out of “grave concern for the community.”
“The top priority for the city of Maywood is the health and wellbeing for all our residents,” Delgado said.
Bell announced the cancellations of all municipal public events, locked all parks and encouraged residents to call or email any of its departments for municipal assistance. It also shut down the adult and youth futsal leagues, aerobics, and the rest of recreational and community programs.
By Alfredo Santana