UPDATED at 4:10 p.m. Monday: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will discuss the possible reopening of indoor shopping malls, hair salons and barbershops tomorrow. New state guidelines allow such operations to resume with limitations to lower the risk of coronavirus spread, but L.A. authorities have been hesitant to authorize such reopenings.
The discussion will be held just ahead of Labor Day, amid concerns the holiday weekend will lead to a repeat of coronavirus case spikes that followed Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said the full board will meet with public health director Barbara Ferrer on Tuesday to discuss possible business openings under the state’s new four-tier virus-tracking guidelines.
California Coronavirus Update: Governor Gavin Newsom Reveals Stricter, 'Slower' COVID-19 Reopening Guidelines For Businesses And Schools
“Our board will be discussing with Dr. Ferrer tomorrow the protocol moving forward, recognizing the state has allowed us to open and we want to do it in a very thoughtful process,” Barger said. “So tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be discussing it and make announcements hopefully by early afternoon.”
“Under the new state guidelines, shopping malls can reopen with restrictions such as a 25% capacity limit and requiring common areas and food courts to remain closed. The guidelines also permit the reopening of indoor hair salons and barbershops, also with modifications.
But while such businesses began reopening in other counties Monday, Los Angeles County did not immediately revise its local Health Officer order, so those businesses were forced to remain closed. Local jurisdictions are authorized to enact restrictions more stringent than the state.
County health officials have been hesitant to move too quickly with new business reopenings, fearing a repeat of COVID-19 increases that followed earlier lifting of restrictions.
It wasn’t immediately clear if the looming Labor Day weekend might impact the county’s decision, but health officials certainly warned residents about potential transmission events.
PREVIOUSLY at 1 p.m. “As we approach the Labor day weekend, we must look at the lessons of these past few months,” said Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis on Monday. “We most forgo our holiday traditions.”
Davis stressed that, after the Memorial Day and July Fourth holidays, L.A. saw a “rapid increase” in cases.
Because of the threat of COVID-19 spread, the L.A. Department of Public Health reminded residents recently that “gatherings are not allowed unless specified by Health Officer Orders. This means parties of any type are not allowed anywhere, including at the beach or park.
“It is evident we are making progress, and this is a testament to the collective efforts of so many,” said county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “As we evaluate how to best continue our recovery journey without experiencing the spikes we saw in July, we need to consider the magnitude of increased exposures created with each sector re-opening.
“Moving forward, especially in a county as large as ours, requires a thoughtful assessment of what measures are in place to protect residents and employees,” continued Ferrer. “Whether we are looking at how to best support school children, or hair salon operators, we have to move forward responsibly since there is no path to economic recovery without slowing the spread of COVID-19. Not respecting the seriousness of the pandemic only makes it harder to open up more of our county.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday released a revised system for tracking counties’ efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, and providing guidance on possible reopening of more businesses and schools. But the county stressed that local officials had not yet fully reviewed the new state guidance, and the local health order has not been changed to allow such businesses to reopen.
Newsom’s new tier structure breaks down as follows:
Said Ferrer: “In order for our county to move through the state’s tier structure which will allow us to reopen more businesses, we must slow the COVID-19 transmission rates we are seeing. Currently, we are in Tier 1 with widespread community transmission and an average of about 13 new cases a day per 100,000 residents. This tier carries the most restrictions for the re-opening of many sectors. To demonstrate reduced spread of the virus and move to Tier 2, we need to reduce our transmission rate to 7 new cases a day per 100,000 residents.”
For comparison, under the old state guidance, the threshold to come off the county-by-county watch list was set at 100 cases per 100,000.
While the county’s positivity rate has dropped significantly, it is still “nearly double” what it takes to move into Tier 2, said Davis.
“For everyone throwing or attending parties, hanging out in crowded spaces, or insisting that the public health rules don’t apply to you or your business,” said Ferrer, “your actions make it much more likely that we remain in Tier 1 for many weeks to come; this makes it harder for our children to get back to school and for many adults to get back to work.”
The county’s daily hospitalizations decreased by 48% over the past month, from 2,220 on July 31 to 1,043 on Monday. The seven-day average of new cases has also declined steadily over the past month. On July 31, the seven-day average of new cases was 2,883 and today that number is 1,309, a decrease of 55%.
The Public Health Department confirmed 16 new deaths and 1,022 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. To date, the department has identified 241,768 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County, and a total of 5,784 deaths.
Statewide, California saw a total of 4,176 new cases for a total of 704,085 since the pandemic began. There were 28 new deaths for a total of 12,933.
Hospitalizations and the number of ICU patients with coronavirus continued to fall.
The 14-day test positivity rate statewide was 5.3 percent.
Watch the news conference below:
City News Service contributed to this report.
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.