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Southeast cities cancel events, close public buildings

LOS ANGELES — Aiming to contain the spread of coronavirus in the region, cities in Southeast Los Angeles County declared municipal emergencies, canceled public events, closed schools, shut down entertainment venues and suspended gatherings at libraries.

Following directives issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom March 16, most cities reduced or outright canceled municipal services, banned social gatherings and drastically reduced services from municipal buildings. The governor ordered all wineries, bars and restaurants to remain closed, and only sell food to go. 

The city of Commerce announced it had closed City Hall to the public until further notice, increased disinfectant rounds in municipal buses, canceled activities at its senior center, including classes and programs, and started a take-home meal program for the elderly that allocates home deliveries. 

The city’s four libraries will stay closed to the public at least two weeks, but residents can return books and other items at the drop containers installed outside each facility. However, patrons can check out items online and pick them up at each site. The Commerce Casino has ceased operations until March 28. 

Pico Rivera decided to close City Hall and all community centers to the public, including classes, until further notice “out of the abundance of caution,” although its parks and golf course will remain open. The senior center and its lunch program will close, but food will be provided to enrollees in the meals program. 

“This decision did not come lightly,” Mayor Gustavo Camacho said. “However, the health and welfare of our residents, our participants and especially our most vulnerable population, seniors and children, are of the outmost importance.”

Downey decided to keep City Hall open to the public, but announced additional sanitary measures including blue tape markings on the lobby floor with six feet of distance between individuals, ordered employees to wear latex gloves on public counters, added hand sanitizers and closed venues such as the Columbia Space Memorial Center, and the Barbara J. Riley Community and Senior Center. 

Starting March 20 and until May 10, all concerts at the Downey Civic Theatre, city and local businesses events were deleted or postponed. The city announced the Downey Unified School District will shut down two weeks, from March 16 to March 27.  

A council meeting scheduled on March 24 is still on, but city leaders advised the public to watch it online on the website, and announced its farmers market will continue operations every Saturday at 9 a.m. 

Norwalk set up an emergency hotline, suspended ticketing for parked cars during street sweepings, advised the public to watch its March council meeting streamed, and asked the public to email comments. 

In response to county health department guidelines, Norwalk canceled all activities at the Norwalk Arts and Sports Complex and gatherings at the Norwalk Senior Center. City Hall will only provide services by appointment. All classroom classes at Cerritos College were suspended.

Lynwood declared a public health emergency until May 15, ordered all bars and nightclubs to close, and instructed restaurants and facilities to prepare food only for take-out. Also, the city will forgo penalties on residents unable to pay water and sewer bills for 60 days, and stated water services will continue uninterrupted during this period. 

The city of Bell called for closures of all parks until April 5, canceled in-person services and encouraged its residents to call or email any of its departments for municipal assistance. The adult and youth Futsal Leagues were canceled, along with aerobics, and the rest of recreational and community services programs.

Bellflower announced the closure of all its facilities and postponed or canceled city events and recreation classes until the second week of April. The Bellflower Unified School District shut down until at least March 27.

Paramount prohibited public attendance to its March 17 City Council meeting, directed participants to join in a teleconference and posted a phone number and email address on its website so attendants can pose questions, or address the government body. 

Whittier did not mandate closure of its businesses, but advised them to follow directives from the Los Angeles County Department of Health and California’s Department of Public Health to ensure compliance and encourage social distancing. 

“We remain vigilant and engaged in the latest developments,” Mayor Joe Vinatieri said. 

South Gate postponed most events from its 2020 Azalea Festival, canceled its sports programs and park classes, closed its facilities, but will keep its lunchtime program at the Margaret Travis Senior Center for take-home meals. 

Santa Fe Springs banned all gatherings with 50 or more people, shuttered eight public events and programs, and extended library due dates until April 24 without penalties. 

A local emergency was declared in Montebello March 12 and city agencies were directed to take additional steps to help slow the spread of coronavirus, including new limits on public gatherings in city facilities and at City Hall.

Cudahy postponed its council meetings until April 7, while Bell Gardens closed all its facilities starting March 16 until further notice. Bell Gardens held an emergency meeting March 17 to devise actions related to the containment of the coronavirus  and postponed all “non-essential” events after March 31. 

Maywood agreed to temporarily suspend overnight parking enforcement, will close City Hall to the public and canceled its March workshops on tenant rights, gardening and coffee with a cop. Both city council and commission meetings are kept on schedule. They will be streamed online, but public participation and questions will be limited to phone or teleconference. 

Public information officer Giselle Delgado said Maywood signed its public declaration out of grave concern for the community, and to ease access to state and federal funds in response to coronavirus.

“The top priority for the city of Maywood is the health and wellbeing of all our residents,” Delgado said. 

Huntington Park declared a local emergency March 17 due to the threat the virus poses to all residents, and banned all gatherings of 50 people or more until after March 31. The emergency status lets the city access state and federal funds to combat the disease and its economic aftermath. 

By Alfredo Santana

Contributing Writer