Houses of worship and all retail stores, including indoor malls, may reopen, albeit with only a portion of their regular capacity under new public health orders issued by Los Angeles County late Tuesday.
The Safer at Work and Safer in the Community order brings Los Angeles County’s rules into alignment with the state’s progression through the recovery roadmap.
“Aligning Los Angeles County’s health orders with that of the state’s is going to provide immediate relief to our communities,” said Kathryn Barger, Chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. “This important step will enable our residents and businesses to have greater clarity and consistency as we continue to take positive steps towards reopening Los Angeles County.”
The reopening comes with specific limitations intended to prevent rapid increases in the number of COVID-19 infections.
In order to enforce social distancing of six feet between people, houses of worship may open for services up to 25% of their capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower, according to the order. Retail stores may allow in-store shopping at 50% of capacity.
Flea markets, swap meets and drive-in movie theaters may resume operations and swimmings pools, hot tubs and saunas in multi-unit housing or part of homeowner associations may open. Public, community pools may not.
Public protests are limited by size as well under the new order. They are limited to 25% of the maximum capacity of the area where it is held, or 100 people, whichever is less.
In all cases, requirements for social distancing, wearing cloth face coverings and infection controls remain in place.
There are also directives to guide offices planning to reopen to meet social distancing and infection control requirements.
The guidelines for all these activities are intended to make sure “we are creating spaces and places that are safe as possible,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.
Los Angeles County is also applying to the state for a variance in order to allow it to move through the recovery roadmap more quickly. The county has met the qualifications for a variance, Ferrer said Wednesday.
Should the state grant the variance, the county may be allowed to move forward with opening hair salons and barbershops and allow dining at restaurants, again with decreased capacity and public health requirements in place.
“There is a lot at stake as we reopen,” Ferrer said. “More people being around each other can result in more transmission of COVID-19.”
“This is why it couldn’t be more important for us to take care of each other while we’re out of our homes,” she said.
While the county has met the requirements for a variance in terms of hospitalizations and rates of infection, the virus remains a threat.
More than 517,000 people in Los Angeles County have been tested for COVID-19, with 8% returning positive results, officials said Wednesday.
Ferrer reported an additional 53 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the countywide total of deaths attributed to COVID-19 to 2,195.
New cases continue to be reported, with 933 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, for a countywide total of 48,700.
Confirmed cases reported in the Antelope Valley now total 1,406, up 151 cases since Friday, the last time county officials held a briefing, according to public health officials.
Palmdale continues to report the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in the Valley, with 678, followed by Lancaster with 553.
Some of the Lancaster tally may include the California State Prison, where 49 staff and 127 inmates have tested positive for the virus, according to public health officials.
In the unincorporated communities, Quartz Hill reported 43 cases on Wednesday, Lake Los Angeles 28, Littlerock/Pearblossom reported 20,
Sun Village 15, Littlerock 13, and Acton had 11 cases.
Agua Dulce reported seven cases, Desert View Highlands six cases and the unincorporated areas of North Lancaster and Palmdale reported five and four cases, respectively, while White Fence Farms reported five and Elizabeth Lake three cases on Wednesday.
Del Sur, Leona Valley, Littlerock/Juniper Hills, Pearblossom/Llano and West Antelope Valley each reported two cases.
Lake Hughes, Anaverde, High Vista, South Antelope Valley and Llano each reported a single case, according to public health officials.
Deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the Antelope Valley numbered 41 on Wednesday, an increase of five since the Friday report.
As with confirmed cases, most were in Palmdale and Lancaster, with 17 and 11 deaths, respectively.
Additionally, the unincorporated community of Quartz Hill reported eight deaths, two were reported in Lake Los Angeles and a singe death each in Acton, Del Sur and Desert View Highlands.
Since the outbreak began, 6,283 people have been hospitalized with the virus at some point, or 13% of positive cases.
There are 1,477 people in hospitals with COVID-19, or 8%. Of these patients, 27% of them are in intensive care and 19% are using ventilators.
“Every day we continue to see a slight decrease in the number of people who are hospitalized in the past few weeks,” Ferrer said.