CALIFORNIA—On Tuesday, May 12, LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer told the county’s Board of Supervisors (BOS) that the emergency Safer-at-Home orders would be extended, “with all certainty,” for 3 more months.
This announcement caused a public uproar, since although local leaders have frequently mentioned that reopening the economy will occur gradually as per the ‘Roadmap to Recovery,’ it was not common knowledge that the emergency order could last until August. Furthermore, residents understood Ferrer’s message to mean that the Safer-at-Home orders would remain in place as they were for 3 months, with no loosening of restrictions.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health later released a statement from Ferrer on the same day, clarifying that the orders would in fact be relaxed in a phased approach.
“L.A. County is continuing its progress on the road to recovery, with planned reopening of beaches for active recreation and an expansion of permitted retail activities coming tomorrow. While the Safer at Home orders will remain in place over the next few months, restrictions will be gradually relaxed under our 5-stage Roadmap to Recovery while making sure we are keeping our communities as safe as possible during this pandemic,” said Ferrer.
“We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way—one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place. We’re counting on the public’s continued compliance with the orders to enable us to relax restrictions, and we are committed to making sure that L.A. County is in the best position to provide its 10 million residents with the highest level of wellness possible as we progressively get back to normal.”
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti also issued the following statement to quell public unsettledness:
“While the City’s Safer at Home order will remain in place beyond May 15, we will also continue to adjust the order gradually — to safely allow more activities, more businesses to operate, and more Angelenos to get back to work. We’re not moving past COVID-19, we’re learning to live with it — and we will keep taking measured steps toward a new, safer reality in the days and weeks ahead.”
On the following day, Wednesday, May 13, Ferrer began her daily COVID-19 news conference by apologizing “for the confusion I created yesterday when I indicated that we needed to continue with the health officer orders through the next few months.”
“I had no intention of messaging that we weren’t changing our order to reflect our recovery journey,” she continued.
Chair and Member of the BOS – representing the 5th District – Kathryn Barger also shared a statement via Twitter on Tuesday, explaining the misunderstanding.
The Tweet received a large volume of disgruntled responses from app users who felt that the explanation was still too “vague” or that the Safer-at-Home orders were causing personal hardships. Barger “hid” 3 Tweets which were critical of her, Ferrer, or the statement itself. This feature essentially makes it slightly more difficult to access these responses as they are not featured in the general comment section.
One of the hidden messages was from a Twitter user named Rob Embrey, who told Barger to “stop listening to the Phd (Ferrer) who said it (possibly referring to the Director’s original comment to the Board).”
Another reply was from someone known as Ben Fenton, who said “You’re not eager. You want to sink the economy on purpose. You suck.”
The next update on the COVID-19 response will be provided on Thursday, May 14, at 1:00 p.m. There will be 5 hosts, including Ferrer. Supervisor and Chair Pro Tem of the BOS, Hilda L. Solis, will also be present.