Los Angeles residents likely confined through July

A sign in place since mid-March announces the temporary closures of restaurants, nightclubs gyms and entertainment venues at LA Live in Los Angeles (AFP Photo/Frederic J. BROWN)

Los Angeles (AFP) - The stay-at-home order for residents of Los Angeles County will likely be extended through the end of July unless the number of COVID-19 cases dramatically decreases, health officials said Tuesday.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the Department of Public Health, made the comments during a meeting with the Board of Supervisors on how long a moratorium on evictions should stand.

Ferrer said the county's lockdown will remain in place under some form "for the next three months" barring a "dramatic change" in the battle against the virus.

She said "dramatic change" means the discovery of a vaccine, at-home daily testing for the virus and effective treatment.

Ferrer warned that lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to an uptick in the number of people dying and a hardening of the lockdown.

"Literally half the cases and half the deaths (in the state) are happening in LA County right now," she said.

She did not elaborate on the type of restrictions that could stay in place through July and said an update on the health order in place would be made on Wednesday.

Her comments came as California last week began loosening restrictions imposed in March as a result of the pandemic.

The state's governor, however, has said that each county can tighten or further ease restrictions depending on the health situation at the local level.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Ferrer's comments should not be interpreted by residents to mean they will be stuck home all summer.

"I think quite simply she's saying we're not going to fully reopen Los Angeles -- and probably anywhere in America -- without any protections or any health orders in the next three months," Garcetti told CNN. "I think we know it's going to be even longer than three months.

"As I've said a million times, we're not moving past COVID-19, we're learning to live with it."

California has registered nearly 68,000 cases of coronavirus so far with almost 2,800 deaths. Los Angeles County alone accounts for nearly half the cases (32,258) and more than half the deaths (1,569).