In a letter to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer on Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Eric Dreiband said the duo’s recent comments suggesting that stay-at-home orders may stay in place long-term in Los Angeles “may be both arbitrary and unlawful.”
Ferrer said at a county supervisors’ meeting earlier this month that some form of stay-at-home orders may likely stay in place “for the next three months.” She later walked those comments back.
Garcetti also said in a media interview that Los Angeles would “never be completely open until we have a cure” for the virus.”
Mayor Garcetti, when asked on Friday at his daily COVID press conference about the letter said, “We’re not guided by politics in this. We’re guided by science…There is nothing else. We’re able to do this and save lives. People’s lives are at stake.”
And of the threat of legal action from Attorney General William Barr, the mayor said he is “bound by state law and bound by county law.” No mention of federal law.
Friday’s letter from the DOJ read, in part, as follows:
The Department of Justice does not seek to dictate how cities and counties such as Los Angeles determine what degree of activity and personal interaction should be allowed to protect the safety of their citizens…However, we are charged with protecting the federal statutory and constitutional rights of all persons in our country, and ensuring that governmental restrictions are not unconstitutionally burdensome…Simply put, there is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
In terms of stay-at-home orders, Mayor Garcetti pointed out that “there is no city in the world that doesn’t have some sort of restriction…because we know this virus kills.”
“We’re I think ranked 82nd in deaths per capita,” said Garcetti. “We’ve seen a plateau…The seven day average is holding.”
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Ferrer was also optimistic when asked on Friday about the L.A. area’s progress vs. the scenario painted by Dr. Birx.
“As I noted yesterday,” Ferrer told reporters on Friday, “our overall data points are looking pretty good in terms of being on the recovery journey.”
She said that hospitalization rates and deaths were moving downward. “We are moving in the right direction,” she said.
Ferrer also noted that the county has been working “very closely” with the CDC “from the very beginning of the pandemic and we actually have folks that are here from the Centers for Disease Control.”
So is the White House playing politics with a democratic mayor in a democrat-led state? “I’ll leave that up to you guys,” Garcetti told reporters.
He did, however, have one message for the federal government: “We could absolutely continue to use help.”
But, said the mayor, “Let’s not open one day early, because “people’s lives are at stake.”
Watch Garcetti’s Friday press conference below.