During a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that “with all certainty” stay-at-home orders will be extended for three more months, the Los Angeles Times is reporting.
Ferrer, though she didn’t issue an official order, said that timeline would only change if there was a “dramatic change to the virus and tools at hand.”
“Our hope is that by using the data, we’d be able to slowly lift restrictions over the next three months,” she said. But without widely available therapeutic testing for the coronavirus or rapid at-home versions that would allow people to test themselves daily, it seems unlikely that restrictions would be completely eased.
While people are understandably upset and frightened by the order (and some are ready to revolt), there are a few important things to note in addition to the fact that as of this writing there is no official order.
First, before there is an official order, Dr. Ferrer will almost certainly meet behind closed doors with supervisors to discuss, and those supervisors all have constituents and business stakeholders who are probably blowing up their phone lines right now. Technically Dr. Ferrer has the ability to sign an order that the supervisors aren’t in favor of, but her department doesn’t have the manpower to enforce it.
Second, stay-at-home orders are already being loosened in Los Angeles County this week. Beaches open Wednesday, but sunbathing or sitting is not allowed.
Reminder: LA County beaches are reopening tomorrow for ocean activities & exercise *with these restrictions*
🏖️Gathering, sitting & sunbathing are NOT allowed
✋At least 6 feet physical distancing required
😷Face coverings are mandatory when out of the water & around others pic.twitter.com/G8KxCf0F2q
— Los Angeles County (@CountyofLA) May 12, 2020
Parks and golf courses opened Monday, with “social distancing” guidelines.
🚵♀️🧗🏽♂️#TakeAHike 🌄 Get the latest information on #COVID19 guidelines at https://t.co/hzsa0kspi9 Follow reopening protocols while visiting #LACOUNTYPARKS trail system. Download the #TrailsLACounty app for real-time updates.@CountyofLA https://t.co/jJxBafwp8U pic.twitter.com/x1V0L9FkVa
— Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation (@lacountyparks) May 12, 2020
And, numerous businesses that had been deemed non-essential were allowed to open for curbside pickup.
Still, additional orders are not justified by the science, and a prolonged government-imposed restriction on travel, freedom of association, and commerce is absolutely unwarranted.
As my colleague Dennis Santiago noted, public health officers and elected officials rely on voluntary compliance with these orders, and voluntary compliance is more likely when the public feels like they have all of the information, that government officials are being honest, and that their compliance will actually have a positive effect. Los Angeles County residents don’t have those assurances. In fact, when the county released the results of a seroprevalence study it funded, Dr. Ferrer minimized the number of LA County residents who had tested positive. During a press conference, Ferrer said (emphasis added):
Based on results of the first round of testing, the research team estimates that approximately 4.1 percent of the county’s adult population has antibody to the virus. Adjusting this estimate for statistical margin of error implies about 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent of the county’s adult population has antibody to the virus – which translates to approximately 221,000 to 442,000 adults in the county who have had the infection. That estimate is 28 to 55 times higher than the 7,994 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported to the county by the time of the study in early April.The number of COVID-related deaths in the county has now surpassed 600.
The study abstract itself, which was provided to RedState by a confidential source, is a bit different:
Out of 863 adults tested in LA County, 35 or 4.06% (CI: 2.74% to 5.37%) tested positive. The weighted proportion of participants who tested positive was 4.14% (CI: 2.81% to 5.47%). After adjusting for test sensitivity and specificity, the unweighted and weighted prevalence of SARS- CoV-2 antibodies in our sample was 5.13% (CI: 3.46% to 6.79%) and 5.23% (CI: 3.55% to 6.92%), respectively. Our estimates represent the cumulative incidence of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County on April 9. Given that Los Angeles County’s adult population is about 7.9 million, our weighted adjusted estimate implies that between 280,000 to 547,000 adults had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 by April 9, which is 35 to 68 times higher than the 7,995 cumulative number of confirmed infections in the County on that date.
RedState linked to the abstract, which had been sent out in an email to more than 50 people along with a press release, on the date it was released. Later, one of the study authors alleged that the abstract had been obtained without authorization, though it’s a document summarizing a publicly-funded study. The county never released the document to the public, which is curious considering the difference between what Dr. Ferrer stated in the press conference and what the document says. The entire abstract can be read here.
Given the county’s lack of transparency with its residents, the likelihood of mass compliance with this order is low.