AP Interview: LA mayor could curb travel if virus cases soar

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is encouraged by a slowing rate of corornavirus infections in the region but says City Hall could expand  restrictions on public activity if the numbers take a turn for the worse

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday that he's encouraged by a slowing rate of corornavirus infections but warned that City Hall could expand restrictions on public and business activity if the numbers suddenly take a turn for the worse.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Garcetti said the possibilities include requiring people to stay mostly in their neighborhoods, rather than travel longer distances for shopping and exercise, and clamping down on construction sites with workers in too-close proximity.

Nothing is imminent but “be ready for more, depending on what the statistics are," the mayor said.

Beginning in mid-March, the city put broad restrictions in place that have closed gyms, bars and sit-down dining rooms, and limited business activity to lines of work deemed essential.Now, freeways flow freely with most residents spending their days at home.

But the limits on activity could get even tougher.

“There are all sorts of things that are always on the table to consider,” the mayor said. There are “places, industries that right now are deemed pretty critical, but if it gets bad enough, that we can say maybe a couple of these things we'll just have to suspend and live without.”

Even with a slowing infection rate, the mayor said the greatest risk for becoming sick could be within a home, when a brother, mother or other family member gets ill, doesn't realize it and spreads the virus to others, or fails to isolate themselves after breaking out in a fever and cough.

“My greatest fear is the spread is happening inside households," the mayor said. “There’s a whole class of people who don’t think they have it who could be spreaders.”

“What if the whole household gets sick? Nobody can go out to get groceries," he added. "It puts the person delivering groceries at risk. That’s, to me, where I think the big spread will be right now.”

In preparation for a spike in cases and fatalities that could come in two to five weeks, the mayor said he is continuing to seek more ventilators and protective medical gear for hospital workers. He gives the federal government a mixed assessment throughout the crisis.

“We’ve had some great help, but I think we all acknowledge that there hasn’t been the sort of federal leadership that we’ve needed," Garcetti said. “And that’s not just about (the Trump) administration, but it’s about years and decades of preparation and ignoring those who said this could happen."

“We've had zero help on testing,” he added, though he credits Washington for its financial assistance to cities, including aid for the homeless.

“This has not been kind of a hyper-partisan moment in our interactions,” he said. “We've had really good help” from federal agencies and the White House.

“Might have had a dance party or two,” he said.