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As coronavirus deaths rise to 35, California enlists National Guard, Navy hospital ship for help

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With the number of coronavirus deaths in California at 34, federal, state and local officials are moving to protect hospitals from what is expected to be an onslaught of patients while tightening unprecedented restrictions on movements in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

There are now more than 1,800 coronavirus cases in California, and that number is expected to grow as more testing occurs.

Los Angeles County health officials on Sunday confirmed another death from the virus, bringing the total to five. They also reported 71 new cases in the county, with the total now 409. There were 132 new cases reported over the weekend.

To help cities in California beef up their response to the pandemic, President Trump on Sunday approved a request from Gov. Gavin Newsom to declare a major disaster and for the federal government to provide "mass care," emergency aid, unemployment assistance and disaster legal services.

The president said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would ship mobile hospital units to California within the next 48 hours. The state is in line to get eight of these units, for a total of 2,000 beds.

The Navy hospital ship the USNS Mercy, which is based in San Diego, will be deployed to Los Angeles. The ship can be stationed in the city in "a week or less," FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor said. Though its facilities will not be used to treat COVID-19 patients, it will accept patients with other medical issues in an attempt to relieve the burden on hospitals, Gaynor said.

Trump also announced that he has signed paperwork to have the federal government pay for National Guard deployments in California, New York and Washington.

Newsom on Friday deployed the California National Guard to assist food banks statewide in serving residents whose needs have not been met due to food shortages.

The governor said the guard would focus on both humanitarian and public safety needs. Newsom specifically pointed out that the state wanted to ensure that "food delivery is happening appropriately" and expressed concern about grocery stores overwhelmed by customers hoarding food and other essential household goods.

California's National Guard force of roughly 22,000 troops has often been activated in times of disaster and crisis, particularly in response to devastating wildfires and earthquakes.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents with disposable income to donate to the city's emergency crisis response fund, which will help pay for childcare for medical workers, grants for families and individuals who need financial assistance and meals for seniors.

Garcetti on Sunday admonished Angelenos who haven't taken orders to practice social distancing seriously, announcing the closure of the city's golf courses, parking lots at Venice Beach and organized group sports at city parks as they have continued to attract throngs of people.

"This weekend we saw too many images of too many people crowding beaches or canyons beyond their capacity. Too many people, too close together, too often," Garcetti said during his daily briefing on the impact of the novel coronavirus. "The longer we do that, the more people will get sick, and the more people will die. There's no way to sugarcoat that."

Starting Monday, parking lots near Venice Beach and the boardwalk will be closed, he said. In Santa Monica, the city also decided to close its beach parking lots.

The measures build on Newsom's sweeping order, issued Thursday, urging Californians to stay home — with a few exceptions — and put distance between themselves and others to slow the spread of COVID-19. Garcetti issued similar orders last week, which have closed most businesses in the city.

Also on Sunday, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority said that it was closing all of its parks and trails, which include the parkland owned by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Access roads and parking lots also will be closed. Many were packed over the weekend, as people — eager to get out of the house and into the warm weather after days of rain — flocked to the outdoor destinations.

On Sunday night, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia announced the closure of Long Beach's public basketball, tennis and volleyball courts, as well as its dog parks, playgrounds and skate parks.

Earlier in the weekend, many insisted that they needed time outdoors in order to maintain their sanity.

Clifford Aquino and Ryan Castro, both 28, couldn't go to their gyms in Cerritos, as they had closed under government orders. So they decided to go to Long Beach instead, where there are plenty of outdoor gyms and paths for running.

"This is only Day Two," Castro said. "It sucks."

"It does suck, but you have to find different ways to stay active," Aquino replied.

Aquino said he feels safe using the machines because he's able to keep a safe distance from others. If one area is too busy, he finds another, he said. He wipes down each machine with a Lysol wipe before using it.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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