California is moving into its third stage of reopening, a plan that’s affecting some counties much sooner than others.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that barbershops and hair salons would be allowed to reopen in many counties throughout the state. Newsom said 47 of California’s 58 counties had already met the state’s standards and could move forward in reopening.
Los Angeles County, which accounts for the bulk of the state’s COVID-19 cases and more than half of its reported deaths, is one of 11 counties not yet permitted to push further in reopening. The county confirmed 27 additional deaths on Tuesday and 1,843 new cases of COVID-19.
Tuesday afternoon, county officials said that they will align with California’s latest guidelines and allow faith-based services, in-store shopping at low-risk retail stores, drive-in movies and other recreational activities to resume.
Officials said last week their mission was to more fully reopen the county by July 4 — a goal that can be met only if the public continues to adhere to social distancing practices and other health recommendations, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer cautioned.
As sunshine bathed Southern California in warmth over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, crowds flocked to outdoor spaces. Pasadena’s Eaton Canyon was closed because of overcrowding, and at Venice Beach, visitors — many of whom were not wearing face coverings or adhering to social distancing practices — filled the boardwalk.
Although the state has seen positive signs in recent weeks, Newsom says that doesn’t mean the virus is no longer a danger.
“That doesn’t mean this thing is behind us and that we’re out of the woods yet,” he said.
County officials continue to expand their fight against the virus while assessing how best to continue to reopen the economy without causing a resurgence in the outbreak.
The county Department of Public Health issued a new order Tuesday evening, officials said, setting the stage for Los Angeles to request a variance from the state to permit faster reopening in some areas.
Under this latest shift, faith-based organizations will be able to resume services with the number of congregants limited to less than 25% of the building’s capacity, or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is lower. All retail, including those in indoor and outdoor retail shopping centers, can also open for business at 50% capacity; flea markets, swap meets and drive-in movie theaters can resume operations; pools, hot tubs and saunas that are in a multi-unit residence or part of a homeowners association can open.
The updated health order provides guidelines for public protests, permitting them as long as attendance is limited to 25% of the area’s maximum occupancy or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower.
Physical distancing requirements, face coverings and other safety protocols must still be observed, officials said.
At a Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, officials debated whether to allow individual cities to progress at different speeds. Some supervisors say such a patchwork plan is necessary to help businesses survive; others argue that it poses problems.
“We have to express extreme caution,” Supervisor Hilda Solis said.
The board voted Tuesday to appoint an inspector general to oversee nursing homes throughout the county. At least 5,218 residents and 3,140 staff from these facilities have tested positive for COVID-19. Roughly 53% of the county’s coronavirus-linked deaths have been in institutional settings, with the majority in skilled nursing facilities.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger criticized the Department of Health over its testing efforts at such care facilities: “We should have been more aggressive,” she said.
Ferrer said that Health Department staff had set out to visit every long-term and intermediary care facility in the county and that efforts to combat the virus in those areas needed to continue.
Also Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that all retail businesses in the city will be able to allow customers inside their stores starting Wednesday, as long as they adopt the county’s safety protocols.
“We’ve earned the right way to do it,” Garcetti said at a media briefing. “It’s time to make sure we don’t punish our local stores and we begin to fortify again our main streets.”
Houses of worship also will be allowed to reopen, he said, but must follow the state’s guideline of limiting services to 25% of their normal capacity, or 100 people, whichever is smaller.
Restaurants will still not be allowed to open for dine-in services, and salons will still be closed, he said.