Los Angeles County health officials confirmed on Tuesday the county meets the criteria to move into a less-restrictive phase of the California’s economic-reopening roadmap. But there’s a catch.
The county must maintain those numbers for two consecutive weeks before the state will move it out of the most-restrictive “purple” tier and into the slightly less onerous “red” tier.
If L.A. moves into the less-restrictive red tier, additional businesses would be authorized to reopen, such as movie theaters, all with limited capacity.
Theaters have already opened in Orange, San Diego and San Francisco Counties at 100 people per screen or 25% capacity, whichever is less. Riverside County was moved to the less restrictive red tier on Tuesday. That means theaters in the three of the state’s four largest counties should now be at least partially reopened.
L.A. county health officials say they are keeping close watch on new case numbers this week, noting Monday that there was unsettling uptick in daily new case reports four days last week, potentially indicating a possible spike in cases following the Labor Day holiday weekend.
NEW: California is launching a Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
Your county will be assigned a color based on:
– Case rate
– Positivity rate
Your color determines how businesses can operate in your county.
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) August 28, 2020
“We plan to closely monitor our data to understand how effectively we are slowing the spread of COVID-19 after the Labor Day holiday and the impact of re-opening schools for high-need students and re-opening hair salons for indoor operations,” public health director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “We thank Los Angeles County residents, workers and businesses who have continued to take the steps needed to slow the spread, including wearing their face coverings, physically distancing and not gathering with people outside their household.”
The state’s color-coded reopening map classifies counties into one of four tiers based on seven-day average testing positivity rate, and the on average number of daily new cases per 100,000 residents.
According to the state, Los Angeles County as of Tuesday had a testing positivity rate of 2.8% and was averaging seven new cases per 100,000. Those figures would enable the county to move up to the red tier, if the numbers hold for two weeks. The average number of new cases is barely under the line. The state’s criteria for the red tier allows counties to have no more than seven new cases per 100,000 residents.
COVID-19 Daily Update:
September 22, 2020
New Cases: 810 (262,133 to date)
New Deaths: 40 (6,401 to date)
Current Hospitalizations: 745 pic.twitter.com/K7lAPUQ0oO
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) September 22, 2020
As with everything coronavirus-related, L.A.’s bright new numbers exist in a complicated world.
“The flu season right around the corner,” said California’s top medical official, Dr. Mark Ghaly on Tuesday. “Being outdoors is a little more challenging.”
“We’re seeing,” Ghaly observed, “in some states a second wave — starting in Europe.”
In addition to concerns in L.A. about a rise in new cases, the U.S. crossed the grim threshold on Tuesday of 200,000 Americans dead from the virus.
Asked about the milestone Dr. Anthony Fauci said at CNN’s Citizens conference on Tuesday, “We’re getting into a weather season where people will be spending more time indoors and depending upon your own social situation, indoors for you or another person may mean poor ventilation, poor airflow and difficulty getting the kind of removal of anything that would lead to spread.
“The fact is, we know we could get into serious trouble if we don’t do certain things,” Fauci warned. “And I hope that that understanding is not going to frighten people but will jolt them into realizing that it is within our hands to prevent that.”
Given those considerations, Ghaly said of further sector easing: “I will reserve final judgement for a couple more weeks until we see increases from Labor Day as well as some of our sectors that have been allowed to reopen.”
On Tuesday, Deadline reported exclusively that 9-1-1: Lone Star‘s original lead actress, Liv Tyler, was exiting the show.
Last season Tyler had been commuting between London, where she lives with her family, and Los Angeles, where 9-1-1: Lone Star films. With production scheduled to resume in October, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva heard that a looming second COVID wave, new restrictions announced today in the UK and another potential travel ban in the U.S. were complicating factors.
Also on Tuesday, L.A. County reported 810 new cases of COVID-19, but it was unclear if the lower-than-usual number was a result of reduced testing over the weekend.
The new cases increased the cumulative countywide number since the start of the pandemic to 262,207.
The county also reported 40 new deaths due to the virus, increasing the cumulative total to 6,401.
While still monitoring for a possible post-Labor Day spike, health officials said that watching the daily number of hospitalizations can be a more stable figure to analyze. As of Tuesday, there were 745 people hospitalized due to the virus, maintaining what has been a downward trend over the past two months.
In late July, the county was averaging more than 2,200 hospitalizations per day.
The state announced on Tuesday that nail salons are being permitted to reopen with limited capacity and other restrictions, but Los Angeles County has not yet cleared those businesses to resume operating. County health officials said they would consult with the Board of Supervisors to determine the timing of possible loosening of restrictions on the salons.
Ghaly announced that 9 counties would be moving into less-restrictive stages of the state’s COVID-19 reopening tiers.
Moving from purple — “most restrictive” — to red are Riverside, Alameda, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo and Solano.
Moving from red to orange — “moderate” — are El Dorado, Lassen and Nevada.
One county even slid into yellow, which is “minimal” risk. That was Mariposa.
San Diego, which had been rumored to be moving back into purple, remained in red.
City News Service contributed to this report.