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Los Angeles deploys medical street teams to help homeless

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Los Angeles deploys medical street teams to help homeless
Protesters from Housing Is A Human Right staged a car-protest near the vacant Sunset Gordon tower in Los Angeles to demand the apartment building be used for the homeless. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

April 18 (UPI) -- Los Angeles plans to deploy medical street teams to help the homeless amid efforts nationwide to curb COVID-19 spread.

Los Angeles County has confirmed 11,391 cases of coronavirus and 495 deaths, health officials said Saturday.

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As of Thursday, at least 33 people, who were mostly living outdoors, tested COVID-19 positive, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday that medical street teams will be deployed to homeless encampments starting next week.

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The street teams will conduct rapid-result COVID-19 tests, other health screenings and counseling on effective social distancing. The teams will also set up trailers across the city, which will be used for at-risk homeless people, age 65 or older or those with pre-existing health conditions.

"With this virus touching every part of our community, we're doing whatever we can to keep those without a home safe," Garcetti said.

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The mayor said he expects 300 trailers to be available in coming weeks.

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The Los Angeles Fire Department also set up a pop-up testing clinic in Skid Row, known for having a large homeless population.

Garcetti added that there will also be transportation from Skid Row to isolation and quarantine beds for people testing positive.

"Individuals experiencing homelessness often lack a safe space to self-isolate or practice physical distancing, and many are older adults or suffer from underlying medical conditions that would leave them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19," Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis said. "Through this coordinated effort ... we will make sure no one is forgotten during this public health crisis."

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Garcetti also called on Friday for hotel and motel owners to participate in Project Roomkey, an initiative California Gov. Gavin Newsom launched earlier this month to provide shelter to those experiencing homelessness.

The project set an initial goal of securing 15,000 rooms for this purpose.

So far, Los Angeles County has secured 2,400 rooms, Garcetti said, and negotiations continue with more than 24 other hotels and motels.

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On Friday night, advocates from Housing is a Human Right held a socially distant car protest at the Sunset Gordon tower in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles to demand the vacant apartment complex be turned into a homeless shelter.

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Statewide, California has reported 29,398 cases and 1,050 deaths.

California life in the COVID-19 pandemic

A pedestrian walks past a bar established in 1933 after Los Angeles County officials closed it for the second time following a spike in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles on August 10. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a briefing Saturday that total hospitalization numbers are down from around 18,000 to almost 17,000.

"If you look at the past three days, you could argue that we are past the plateau, and we're starting to descend which would be very good news," Cuomo said.

The hospital rooms were at "manic, max capacity for a very long period of time," he said, and "hospital capacity was increased by 50 percent and that capacity was overwhelmed."

Intensive care unit admissions were also down along with the number of people being put on ventilators, Cuomo said.

He added that the infection rate has decreased from one person infecting 1.4 other people to one person infecting to 0.9 people, thanks to mitigation efforts.

Still, there were about 2,000 new admissions to hospitals Friday, Cuomo added.

"That is still an overwhelming number, 2,000 new," Cuomo said. "This was where we were at in March."

The number of deaths in New York Friday were 540, down from 630 the previous day.

"Testing is how you monitor the rate of infection and how you control for it," Cuomo said in discussing the possibility of reopening the state. "The more you test, the more information, the more you can reopen society."

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He also announced that the state received 1.5 million cloth masks from the federal government Friday.

"I'm going to thank them for that," Cuomo said. "These are cloth masks that we can distribute to people to help implement our policy where, if you are in public, you have to wear a mask. It's not a surgical mask. It's a cloth mask ... We're asking people to wear masks and this is going to be very helpful because we're going to have additional masks to distribute to the public."

On Wednesday, Cuomo announced an executive order requiring everyone across the state to wear a face covering over the mouth and nose in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained, including public transportation.

On Saturday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said residents could report people who are not social distancing.

In a tweet, he urged residents to take a photo with the location noted in it if they see people crowding in defiance of social distancing guidelines and text it to 311-692 to alert authorities.

New York has the most cases and deaths nationwide, reporting 229,642 cases and 12,822 deaths followed by New Jersey with 78,467 cases and 3,840 deaths.

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Maryland

A protester holds a sign during a car protest Saturday in Annapolis, Md., to reopen the state. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

Some residents in Maryland are hoping their state will be the next to announce a reopening of business less than three weeks after Gov. Larry Hogan issued a stay-at-home order.

Supports of a group called ReOpen Maryland paraded in their cars through downtown Annapolis on Saturday to protest the order and call for restrictions to be lifted. Hogan issued the order March 30, calling for all non-essential businesses, churches and schools to stay closed amid the pandemic.

Governors in Florida and Texas announced plans this week to start slowly reopening the economies.

"I completely understand why people are anxious to get things going," Hogan said Friday. "I want to get our economy back and get things opened up as quickly as possible just as much as anybody does.

"But we're also going to have to do that in a safe manner."

Michigan residents held a similar protest Wednesday in Lansing, snarling traffic around the state Capitol for hours.

At the federal level, Defense Secretary Mark Esper extended current travel restrictions for most military forces and their families, preventing them from moving to new assignments worldwide.

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Decisions on the travel restrictions are "driven by science by what the scientists and doctors are telling us about how this virus moves because protecting our people, protecting our communities will be task number one," Esper said at Pentagon briefing earlier this week.

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