Los Angeles mayor says turned down job in Biden administration

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Thursday that he turned down an offer to work in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden so he can focus on the city as it grapples with record-breaking surges in the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivers remarks at The United States Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

Garcetti, a Democrat who has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Secretary of Transportation in a Biden administration, said that with infections, hospitalizations and deaths spiraling in America’s second-largest city he felt he needed to stay on as mayor.

“There were things on the table for me but I said to (the Biden administration) very clearly ... I need to be here now,” Garcetti told reporters during a live-streamed news conference from his home. “I want to be here and I need to be here.”

He declined to say if Biden had offered him a specific position in the new president’s cabinet.

The mayor, who is quarantining at home after his daughter tested positive for a COVID-19 infection, said that Wednesday saw the highest number of cases and deaths yet in America’s second-largest city

“We expect to have more dead bodies than we have spaces for them,” the mayor said. “That frightens me and it should frighten you.”

Garcetti has imposed some of the strictest clamp-downs in the nation on Los Angeles and has drawn criticism from business owners who say that his ban on even outdoor dining threatens to put them out of business.

The mayor said during the news briefing that despite those tough restrictions Los Angeles County had more than 5,000 people hospitalized and was seeing one COVID-related death every 15 minutes.

He criticized members of U.S. Congress for failing to reach a deal on a stimulus package that would provide relief to Americans who had been thrown out of work or lost their businesses during the pandemic.

“The leaders in Washington are abandoning the firefighters protecting us, the police officers,” he said.

Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Himani Sarkar