Los Angeles County has extended its “safer at home” order to May 15, as public health officials expressed optimism that the order has helped slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order bans public gatherings, and has forced the closure of beaches, hiking trails, parks, and non-essential businesses.

Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said at a press conference on Friday afternoon that the order has helped “flatten the curve” of the pandemic.

“We know it’s effective, but we still have a ways to go to in order to both protect the lives of the people in our county and make sure the health care system remains fully able to service all who need their care,” Ferrer said. “I’m as sad as you are to not that this is not the time to lift.”

“Essential” businesses are now required to provide employees who work in proximity to others with a cloth face covering. They have also been ordered to post plans that explain how physical distancing and cleaning requirements are being adhered to.

County officials first issued the stay-home order on March 19, and initially said it would expire on April 19. California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a similar order on the same day, and said it would remain in place until further notice.

Ferrer also reported on Friday that 18 more people have died in the county of COVID-19, bringing the countywide total to 241. The county has recorded 8,430 positive tests. Of those, 1,062 cases are among staff and residents of institutional facilities, including nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, shelters, and jails.