LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The County of Los Angeles prevailed today in its battle to protect its residents and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Samantha P. Jessner granted the County’s request for a restraining order to stop the City of Bell Gardens from interfering with an emergency temporary shelter program to place COVID-19 patients in a local hotel, and denied the City’s request to block the hotel’s participation in the program.
Per Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive orders, the County’s two temporary shelter programs provide hotel beds for homeless individuals diagnosed with or exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 (“Q&I Facilities”), and for homeless individuals who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 (“Project Roomkey”).
The Bell Gardens hotel, a fully operational Q&I Facility with 56 individuals currently placed there, has agreed to provide 100 beds for temporary quarantine and isolation purposes. The facility provides a safe place where clients who do not require hospitalization can recover from symptoms and isolate so they do not spread the virus.
Even though the City of Bell Gardens initially supported the hotel’s participation as a Q&I Facility, city officials subsequently took steps to sabotage the program by sending a letter to the hotel threatening to terminate its ground lease, enacting a moratorium barring hotel and motel participation in the emergency temporary shelter programs, and filing an application for a temporary restraining order to block the hotel from participating in the project.
However, the court held, once again, that cities cannot undermine State and County orders during a public health crisis—the Bell Gardens rulings follow on the heels of Judge Jessner ordering Norwalk city officials to cooperate with Project Roomkey. The court also denied Bell Gardens’ TRO request against the hotel owner, thus clearing the way for this project.
Like the Norwalk hotel, the Bell Gardens hotel meets the needs of the County’s program due to its geographic location, facility footprint, and amenities. The County needs all of the beds it has—and more—to house this COVID-19-affected population.
In addition to surveying potential locations to ensure that sites meet program needs, the County delivers emergency services to each participating hotel.
Those onsite emergency services include site inspections by the Department of Public Health and Department of Health Services, sanitation per The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations, medical care, meal delivery, laundry, mental health support, and trained staff members to manage onsite logistics. Each site is supplied with personal protective equipment, sanitizing products and other cleaning supplies, and soap for frequent handwashing.
The County also provides 24/7 hotel security through contracts with private security firms. The Bell Gardens facility, for example, has three unarmed guards and one armed guard on site at all times.
The County has instituted a thorough intake and discharge process that all clients must complete. As part of the intake process, potential clients undergo a screening process to ensure they are medically stable; and no clients are placed at the site without having gone through this process.
Clients are not allowed to leave the hotel until after their isolation or quarantine period ends, at which time they are assigned to a case manager and must undergo the County’s discharge process.
Left unchecked, Bell Gardens would have undermined the Governor’s emergency orders and the County’s crucial programs resulting in a devastating impact on public health.
Per Skip Miller, partner with Los Angeles law firm Miller Barondess and outside counsel for the County, “Government—including the City of Bell Gardens—has a legal and moral imperative to help these people, not throw them out and take a gamble on the public health consequences.”
“The County is bound and determined to carry out Governor Newsom’s emergency orders. These temporary programs exist to save lives and stop the spread of the deadly virus,” said Miller.
Skip Miller – Attorney for County of Los Angeles
Miller Barondess, LLP
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