Dec 2, 2020

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 2: Citywide Stay-at-Home Order

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti December 2 Press Conference
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsL.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 2: Citywide Stay-at-Home Order

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti held a COVID-19 press conference on December 2, 2020 in which he issued a citywide stay-at-home order. He told residents that “it’s time to hunker down” and to “cancel everything.” Read the full transcript here.

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Mayor Garcetti: (00:00)
Good evening, Los Angeles. Today, Dr. Robert Redfield, the Director of the CDC said the next three months are going to be the most difficult in the public health history of this nation. Largely because of the stress that’s going to be put on our healthcare system. We’re beginning to feel that stress here in Los Angeles and the latest data is nothing short of alarming. In the last month alone since early November, our daily infections have tripled. Our hospitalizations have more than tripled and are at a new peak and our deaths have nearly doubled and they continue to rise.

Mayor Garcetti: (00:51)
These numbers don’t reflect last week’s record-breaking numbers. They don’t reflect yet the Thanksgiving effect of time spent together with families when many people were gathering and traveling in defiance of public health warnings. And here in our golden state, unfortunately, California has one of the fewest numbers of hospital beds per capita, compared to other states. So if cases continue on this pathway, if they continue to increase at the pace that we’ve seen, the county expects that we will run out of hospital beds here in Los Angeles by Christmas time.

Mayor Garcetti: (01:27)
The public health condition of our city, excuse me, is as dire as it was in March, in the earliest days of this pandemic. So tonight I want to speak as always to you, candidly, with the truths and the statistics that I get, as soon as I get them to share them with you and to know what we can do in the coming days. It’s as much what you choose not to do as what you do do that will determine what happens here in our beloved hometown. The choices between us are stark between health and sickness, between care and apathy, and yes between life and death for too many of the people that we love.

Mayor Garcetti: (02:14)
My message couldn’t be simpler. It’s time to hunker down. It’s time to cancel everything and if it isn’t essential, don’t do it. Don’t meet up with others outside your household, don’t host a gathering, don’t attend a gathering. And following our targeted safer at home order, if you’re able to stay home, stay home. Just be smart and stay apart. That’s our message tonight. And this is how we’ll keep ourselves safe. This is how we will protect our workers, our healthcare heroes, who I want to thank who were on shift after shift, after shift with little light at the end of the tunnel. This is how we will protect our communities and our families.

Mayor Garcetti: (03:04)
I know that everyone is hurting, especially in this moment, our restaurant workers and our children who are school-aged. So before I dig in deeper to today’s numbers, I want to share two new announcements of things and the work that we are doing to help those vulnerable populations. The first effects are small businesses and restaurants. So many of whom are the heart of our neighborhoods, and of our city, of our creativity, of our entrepreneurial spirit. And so many of them have been dealt devastating blows throughout this pandemic. Without door dining suspended at our restaurants, the losses suffered by the industries workers and business owners are mounting.

Mayor Garcetti: (03:47)
I’ve heard the pain in the voices of our service workers and from our restaurant owners. I’ve seen it in the data, which shows us that approximately four in every 10 people who work in full service restaurants have already lost their jobs this year. With limited federal support, which I’ll get to later and the County public health department’s new orders about outdoor dining, the city must step up to provide leaf to restaurants. So tonight I can announce the launch of Secure Emergency Relief for Vulnerable Employees or simply put SERVE.

Mayor Garcetti: (04:22)
The SERVE initiative is a new measure to deliver relief to our city’s restaurant workers. It’s a partnership between my office and… To mayorsfundla.org. Every contribution matters. And while we step up to help one another here with these new initiatives, I want to also take a moment tonight to speak about Washington, D.C. and the need for our leaders in our nation’s capital to step up. You know I’ve been a very loud voice, not just here from Los Angeles, but organizing mayors across the country in a bipartisan way, engaged in negotiations both with the Trump administration and with congressional leaders to say we need help now.

Mayor Garcetti: (05:02)
We’re on the front lines. Our workers are on the front lines. Our healthcare heroes are on the front lines and yet local and state government has been left behind since May. We need to have a package that helps us now and today, it was good to hear that we had bipartisan support for a new proposal of $908 billion to be able to right now pass help for the American people. The details included small business assistance to the tune of $288 billion with a focus on our restaurants and hospitality and live entertainment, which have been so hard hit. $180 billion of unemployment for workers who have gone off a cliff and gotten a pay essentially reduction.

Mayor Garcetti: (05:47)
Well, leaders in Washington, D.C. have not seen a pay cut. $160 billion for state, local, and tribal governments. And this one is critical for us if we’re going to have a chance of forestalling the cuts to services, the furloughs, and yes even maybe the layoffs here in Los Angeles. We need to see that help now. There’s $82 billion for our schools, $45 billion for transit. Our public transit which is serving people who are still going to work, who are essential workers who are on those essential trips, but also that faces a fiscal hole, for our airports and our airline industry and those workers, food aid of $26 billion, $35 billion for healthcare providers, rental assistance for people who need to pay their rent $25 billion and critically $16 billion for our testing, tracing, and our vaccine rollout so that we can finally get through this crisis.

Mayor Garcetti: (06:42)
There’s other money for community lenders and for broadband, for post office support, for childcare, for opioid treatment, and for student loans. But I hope no congressional leader will reject this out of hand, but instead do the hard work to get this done. It’s not just a list of numbers. These aren’t just statistics. It’s the difference between survival and freefall between housing and homelessness and yes between life and death. There’s so much more to do from the federal government, from extending the moratorium on evictions, providing mortgage relief, and much more. But as Joe Biden, our president elect said, “This is a good start and it’s something that we should all get done now.”

Mayor Garcetti: (07:24)
I hope every member of Congress from both parties will not go home for Christmas until this has passed and before our president signs it. So the stakes, my friends have never been higher. The situation has never been more dire. And the data today bears that out. Today in our county, we had 5,987 new infections, 2,119 of those right here in the city of LA. If we stay on this case trajectory, LA is projected to reach 574,644 total cases. That’s more than half a million of us by the end of the year. And if things don’t change, the worst number of all is the projections of the cumulative deaths this year, 11,130 lost souls.

Mayor Garcetti: (08:19)
That would mean that 3,390 more Angelenos could die in a single month. Let me put that in perspective for you. That’s as many deaths in a single month, as we have from homicides in an area higher decade. We are staring at the face of tragedy, of loss, the valley of death that is in front of us and yet we can get through it together. Save lives, cut that number down. I hope that I will be receiving questions four or six weeks from now about how those numbers didn’t hit the projections. But right now that’s what our public health professionals project will happen.

Mayor Garcetti: (09:03)
See, COVID surging doesn’t just mean people dying directly though from this pandemic, it also means that our hospitals will become overwhelmed. And so if you have something that’s life-threatening and not COVID, you might not be able to get into that hospital or get that bed that will save the life of you or of a loved one. There simply wouldn’t be enough medical staff, ICU beds for every patient. And the state is warning that while we might be able to expand the number of beds in many of our hospitals, and I want to thank our hospitals who are heroically working to plan for that.

Mayor Garcetti: (09:35)
There simply aren’t enough healthcare workers in California to cover the shifts. The transmission rate here in Los Angeles is now projected to be down slightly. It is one of the few rays of light, and I hope it’s a reflection of the hard work we’ve all been doing the last few weeks. Our R. or our transmission rate is now 1.14 down from 1.27 last week. That means that the numbers of infections though, unfortunately, it’s still increasing.

Mayor Garcetti: (10:03)
That means that the numbers of infections though, unfortunately, is still increasing. Whenever that number is more than one, it means, every one new infection is resulting in more than one infection as a result. Remember how this virus spreads, the CDC defines an exposure, as contact within six feet of someone with a virus for a total of 15 minutes or more, as the most likely place that spread happens. Staying apart, hunkering down, that’s how we’re going to reduce transmission. It’s that simple. Right now, 2,572 of our fellow Angelenos are hospitalized because of COVID-19, a 5.5% increase since yesterday. Across the county, there are 479 available beds left, including 393 in acute care and just 86 in our ICU beds. As I mentioned, three weeks, our hospitalizations have doubled. In the last week we saw 42% increase alone. At this rate, we will run out of beds in the next two to four weeks. We have 601 families who have a loved one in an ICU bed right now because of COVID-19, they’re severely sick and they’re hanging on praying that their loved ones will survive.

Mayor Garcetti: (11:17)
This is a major increase since last month, when there were just 346 people severely sick. This is to me, one of the most frightening statistics, that our health care worker infections are up by 71%. Our hearts go out to those who are saving our family members and working every single night in the face of fear and the trauma of the death that they witness, and now who are getting infected. It’s a double blow, because it could mean they could get sick. They could be hospitalized and they could themselves die. But it also means they’re out of the workforce while they’re infected, meaning that our hospitals are even more pinched, making it tougher for all of us to get the care we need. Do it for all of us, but do it for our healthcare workers too, whether they’re cleaning a hospital or a tech, a nurse, or a doctor or anyone in the hospital administration, do it to make sure they can continue saving lives.

Mayor Garcetti: (12:17)
The worst part of each of these briefings is the statistic about the number of Angelenos who have died. The County announced 40 more deaths today. We mourn for every life, every set of dreams lost and cut short. We know too that this figure is a lagging indicator and we expect it to go up consistently for the next couple of weeks. We know as hospitalization rates go up, the deaths follow. We can’t forget another key fact about the numbers that this disease takes several weeks to show up in our data. This is just a snapshot of where we were at the beginning and the middle of November. It’s not actually a snapshot of today. What we may see in the coming weeks, is something that Dr. Fauci called, a surge upon a surge, a December wave on top of a Thanksgiving wave, that’s followed by a Christmas wave.

Mayor Garcetti: (13:10)
We just can’t let that happen. We have to do everything we can to prevent it. Stay at home as much as possible. In these critical weeks, it won’t last forever, but it will make all the difference and it will shorten the time that we do have to stay at home, if we all opt to stay at home. Don’t share your air. Don’t gather with other households and know your COVID-19 status by getting tested if you think that you’ve been exposed. As of this week, we’ve conducted in city sites, 2.5 million tests since the start of this pandemic, and the current seven day positivity rate at city sites is 11.5%. I promised you from this podium, that we would expand testing to meet the higher demand, and we have delivered on that promise, more than doubling the tests each day in just over a month.

Mayor Garcetti: (14:07)
I want to thank our heroes from the Los Angeles fire department and the volunteers of CORE, whose work you can support by donating or signing up to volunteer at coreresponse.org. This amazing organization based here in Los Angeles, they are the ones that you see when you drive through those centers or walk up to those centers, coreresponse. org needs your help. We have the capacity now to test more than 39,000 people every day, including new testing capacity now at San Fernando Park, at LAX and additional mobile units that we’ve brought online. We’ve worked really hard to reduce wait times at sites to meet this moment. Now, about just 30 minutes at Dodger Stadium as of today, 10 to 15 minutes at most of our other sites and with no wait at San Fernando Park and at Crenshaw Christian Center. Today and tomorrow, mobile teams are conducting testing in North Hollywood, in Boyle Heights and three different sites in South LA, to keep our momentum of keeping down deaths in our most vulnerable communities.

Mayor Garcetti: (15:12)
We’ve also maintained one of the quickest turnaround times for tests in the country, especially of an operation of our size. Ensuring that information gets to you quickly when you can use it, to slow the spread, that stands right now at an average of 24 hour turnaround time from our labs to tell you your results. To find any of our locations of the mobile testing sites or the ones that we have consistently, please visit coronavirus.lacity.org/testing to find out where those places are and to sign up for a test if you need one today. If you think you’ve you might’ve been exposed, get tested immediately and quarantine until you receive the negative result. Don’t wait. Those first few days are so important, but remember your test results only captures your status the moment you took the test, it is not your passport to party.

Mayor Garcetti: (16:02)
It’s not your way to go out and hang out with other households. It is just to find out whether you were sick that day and to make sure that you can slow the spread. If your test result does come back positive, isolate yourself for at least 10 days from the time your symptoms first appeared and stay isolated for at least 24 hours after your last fever. People you’ve come in contact with should quarantine and get a test at the end of their quarantine. All of these proteins calls are available at publichealth.lacounty.gov. Finally, we’ve lost so many extraordinary people this year. I’ve shared some of those stories, some from COVID-19 and some just from life itself. But today I want to say goodbye to a giant of Los Angeles, the great Olympian champion, civil rights hero, and an angel in this city, Rafer Johnson. I am very honored to have called Rafer, a friend.

Mayor Garcetti: (17:05)
His family, and he had made an indelible imprint on the history, not only of this city, but of our nation and of our world. Tonight I have ordered that flags across our city be flown at half staff in his honor. Rafer was one of the greatest people I’ve ever met. An athlete without peer, who grew up watching his parents pick cotton not in the deep South, but in San Joaquin Valley. A standout athlete who is exceptional at four different sports, who came to UCLA inspired by the civil rights heroism and the excellence of Jackie Robinson. He might’ve even been a greater athlete than Jackie Robinson himself, winning the gold medal in the decathlon, becoming the greatest athlete on the face of the earth.

Mayor Garcetti: (17:52)
He didn’t compete, he was a civil rights pioneer, he was the first black member at UCLA of an integrated fraternity, the student body president in the face of racism. I’ll never forget later in his life after he made history by helping the special Olympics get started up here in California. And before that, being with Robert Kennedy, an activist in his campaign and with him the night that he was shot here in Los Angeles. When Peter Ueberroth could have picked anybody to light the torch to reignite the Olympic spirit here in Los Angeles, he knew there was only one person to do that Rafer Johnson. In 1984, when he lit that cauldron up, he lit hope of a better tomorrow, and of showing the progress of our city, of our nation and of our world. I always will remember standing with him, some three decades later, as he brought that same vigor and that same conviction, wanting to bring those games back, but also to share sport and competition with every kid, no matter what color, no matter what income or zip code they came from.

Mayor Garcetti: (18:59)
Years later, when Rafer was asked about the decathlon and the wind that he pulled off and the incredible summer Olympics of 1960, which was competitive and came down to the last event, the 1600 meters, which he hated, against a rival, who he was friends with, but who could have easily surpassed him. He gave everything to that last kick. And he said, I had one advantage, when asked why he won. This was my last decathlon. I was prepared to run as fast as I had, in this last race of my life. He won that and announced his retirement. Los Angeles, we are running too in a brutal race, a year that has tried us and tested us, asked us, who we are, has led us sometimes to feeling divided, but more often than not to being united, to find that common love and that common space and that common ground of what we share before what separates us. The end of this is insight, but it won’t come…

Mayor Garcetti: (20:03)
The end of this is in sight, but it won’t come automatically. The new year brings hope for our health and for our future, but this is not over yet. I need you to feel the power you have to save the lives around you and of yourself. To summon the strength and the conviction to do what needs to be done to get through these winter months, and to emerge with the buds of the spring as hope blossoms in our city, both literally and figuratively.

Mayor Garcetti: (20:33)
Hunker down, cancel your plans, stay safe, stay healthy, and please stay home. Sending you, as always, from my family to yours, strength and love. With that, I’ll be happy to answer questions and as always, I’ll come back and speak in Spanish.

Moderator: (20:54)
Thank you. Now to the line of Dakota Smith from the LA Times. Please go ahead.

Mayor Garcetti: (20:59)
Hi, Dakota.

Dakota Smith: (21:01)
Good evening, mayor. Earlier today, Police Chief Michel Moore said city leaders are seriously contemplating layoffs of LAPD officers as a way of closing the budget deficit. Do you support layoffs at the LAPD, and how many layoffs do you think will be needed of sworn officers to address this crisis? Thank you.

Mayor Garcetti: (21:24)
Sure. Thank you, Dakota. This is, and not unexpectedly, because households and businesses are going through the same thing, the toughest budget year of our lives in the toughest economic times of our lives. Los Angeles is not unique. We’ve been very well managed and high bond ratings, the largest reserve fund we’ve ever had. But this will be a brutal year. There’s no way around that. And it is my hope we will do everything we can to avoid layoffs.

Mayor Garcetti: (21:53)
I know it’s kind of sexy to lead with the worst, but I hope that that’s at the very bottom of the list. And our city administrative officer has asked all, based on a letter I put to our departments, all of our departments to say, “How will we close this worst case scenario if there is no help?” And we don’t expect a cavalry to come, we don’t expect the economy to bounce back enough. So we will have to make very difficult decisions.

Mayor Garcetti: (22:17)
The reason why I want layoffs to be the very last thing is it hits our most vulnerable employees and key services. And I know that the city council leadership and I share some values around how we can do this together, and some experience from a decade ago as well. There will be no easy answers, but let me share what those values are and the priority hopefully before we would have to lay folks off.

Mayor Garcetti: (22:42)
While we have to plan to do that, if necessary, we have to, in other words, have those plans in our pockets. It is my sincere hope we won’t have to take those plans out if we do work together.

Mayor Garcetti: (22:54)
First is the value of shared sacrifice, that nobody is immune from this. That we all are seeing that out on the streets where people have lost their jobs and their hours. And that we as a city will have to share in that sacrifice.

Mayor Garcetti: (23:07)
Secondly, that it won’t just be civilian or sworn employees of the city, it will have to be all of us. We are all part of this enterprise. And just as all departments have had to save, all departments have had to stop hiring, all departments have had to make cuts, that will still guide us. That both sworn and civilians will have to be a part of it.

Mayor Garcetti: (23:29)
Third is that we’ve built up critical reserves, but critical reserves are for critical times, and this certainly is a critical time. So we need to look at those reserves as part of the solution.

Mayor Garcetti: (23:40)
Fourth is we need to finance our capital projects. That this isn’t a year to slow up on those, but it’s not a year as well to pay all in cash. If we finance that out some years, that too can help us potentially avoid those layoffs.

Mayor Garcetti: (23:56)
And then fifth, we need to lead by example. Whether it’s freezing or cutting our own pay, whether it’s looking at the things that we will do to add to the solutions, we all as leaders have to lead by example.

Mayor Garcetti: (24:10)
Those five values and others that we may add, I think will inform this. And layoffs hits our most vulnerable. Layoffs hit those folks that are part of our targeted local hire. Often our poorest folks. Folks from communities of color. Folks who have been in the criminal justice system, or experienced homelessness, or come back from war as veterans. We’ve done a great job, but because those are our newest employees and layoffs happen by seniority, they would be the first to go. So I hope that all of us, whether it’s our unions, whether it’s our departments, whether it’s our leaders, will really keep that in mind.

Mayor Garcetti: (24:45)
Second, layoffs would also take away some of the goals that we have to diversify our departments, whether it’s adding more women, African Americans to our police department and to our fire department. Looking at those classes, looking at those folks who had come through to replace some of the people. We would lose those folks and take steps backwards in making a more representative government.

Mayor Garcetti: (25:08)
And then finally, it also sets back city services for years to come. I’ve seen that in 2009 when we did have layoffs.

Mayor Garcetti: (25:15)
So we have to prepare for the worst, but I will work every single day for the best. And reiterate that if Washington, DC comes through… By the way, the numbers proposed today are not so big that they would fill our entire hole. It’s probably $250 to $300 million if the formula’s proposed in this bipartisan proposal moved forward. But that could get bargained down, et cetera. So at most, it’s 250 to 300 million of what could be a 600 to 700 or more million dollar deficit. That can help us. We will be vigorous about it. Those other things together may help us avoid it, but we have to be ready.

Mayor Garcetti: (25:56)
So it’s too early for me to say. I will only be able to answer that question if we get to a point where after all of those things, we still have a deficit.

Mayor Garcetti: (26:06)
Next question, please. That’s it? Okay.

Moderator: (26:09)
Thank you. Now it comes from [Albert Sterna 00:26:10], [inaudible 00:26:11] at San Francisco University. Go ahead.

Mayor Garcetti: (26:14)
Okay. Good evening.

Moderator: (26:16)
Good evening, mayor. Thank you for taking the time.

Mayor Garcetti: (26:18)
You bet.

Moderator: (26:19)
I have two questions. I wanted to know first, what has the mayor’s office done to curb the spread of the virus in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights, which has one of the highest, if not largest number of cases in LA city. And my second question is also about Boyle Heights. The neighborhood has the lowest number of turnout for the census response. I was wondering if the mayor’s office knew how that will affect the community, especially in response to COVID relief in the future.

Mayor Garcetti: (26:44)
Sure. Well, we certainly won’t be looking at response rates for census before we bring resources. Resources go where they are needed, period. For instance, the African American community where we saw double the deaths, we surged into neighborhoods with high African American population. We’re the first big city in America, and maybe one of the only ones, to cut those deaths under the representation in the population.

Mayor Garcetti: (27:05)
Boyle Heights is very special to me. It’s where both sides of my family, the Mexican and Jewish sides, were settled. I know how Boyle Heights has sometimes gotten the short end of the stick. My grandfather’s home was taken to build the 101 freeway. My grandmother used to tell me stories about what it was like growing up in Boyle Heights. So we have surged into Boyle Heights, I think as much as any neighborhood, the mobile testing there, and made it readily available nearby too in surrounding neighborhoods.

Mayor Garcetti: (27:36)
The biggest surges we’ve seen, actually nine of the top 10 neighborhoods, are in the Northeast San Fernando Valley as well. So we’ve set up recently the San Fernando Park walk-up facility, which is a super kind of center that you can go into and it can surge many people into there, thousands a day if necessary. Similarly in Boyle Heights, we were going to continue being there, not waiting for people to go to Dodger Stadium or other close by places, Union Station, but making sure that we are there in Boyle Heights as well.

Mayor Garcetti: (28:06)
So we will be this weekend again in Boyle Heights with mobile testing. And again, coronavirus.lacity.org/testing gives all of those locations, and we encourage folks to go there. Thanks so much for that question.

Mayor Garcetti: (28:21)
Next question. That’s it? Okay. Thank you.

Mayor Garcetti: (28:25)
I’ll now turn to Spanish. Thank you again to everybody for tuning in, and we will talk very soon. But please, look at those numbers, remind yourself of that, and please stay home.