PALMDALE — With a belief that conditions in the Antelope Valley are such that a controlled reopening of business is possible without jeopardizing the community’s safety, the city of Palmdale submitted a plan to Los Angeles County officials for approval to start the process.
The “Palmdale Community Renaissance Plan” was developed with the input of local businesses gathered during a virtual town hall on April 28. This input, along with a corresponding survey, helped provide the data to support the city’s plans, City Manager J.J. Murphy said.
“We’ve been engaged in this since day one,” Mayor Steve Hofbauer said. “The day we closed down, the next day we started talking about ‘How do we get this back open again?’”
To emphasize the economic impact the stay at home orders have had on the local business community, the city’s letter to county officials cited data collected from the town hall’s 225 registrants: 52% have been closed since the March 19 order; of those that remained open, 37% had to furlough or lay off employees.
Additionally, 23% of the participants said they were likely or very likely to close if the stay at home order is extended beyond May 15.
To aid in safely reopening, the town hall survey showed that 90% of the non-essential businesses strongly supported social distancing measures and providing hand sanitation methods for customers, according to the city’s letter to the county.
The Palmdale plan dovetails with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ request last week, for a study with recommendations for reopening county businesses, Murphy said.
“I think our report was timely, in that we put data behind our recommendations,” he said.
The proposal to county officials includes the transcript of the town hall meeting, as well as information collected by surveying the businesses that participated.
“As they’re studying it this week, hopefully some of our recommendations will make it into (the plan),” Murphy said. “I don’t feel L.A. County should be painted with one brush.”
The plan presented was strictly recommendations for what they would like to see for reopening, but will follow the guidance of the county’s public health officials.
“We have no intention of being any more restrictive than necessary,” he said.
Palmdale officials state the city has already met the four criteria set forth by the county for easing the restrictions. These include adequate capacity in the local health care system to handle COVID-19 and routine medical needs, protection for vulnerable populations such as drive-through food distribution programs, testing capacity through a partnership with Palmdale Regional Medical Center, Antelope Valley Hospital, Wesley Medical Center and the Los Angeles County Fire Department that has tested nearly 5,000 people to date; and a city-led plan for requiring physical distancing and infection control measures.
The plan applies to businesses, nonprofit organizations and corporations and calls for requiring six feet of physical distance between people, whether employees, volunteers or customers. Infection control measures to include hand washing or sanitizers is also required, as is screening employees and volunteers for illness and requiring face coverings.
Some requirements are specific to specific business sectors, such as hair salons and barbershops and similar businesses that require contact with customers. For these, services would be by appointment-only, with patrons waiting outside in their cars until ready and spacing workstations to provide 10 feet between each.
Specific requirements are also listed for movie theaters, restaurants, gyms, bowling alleys, golf courses and faith-based organizations.
In the survey, 56% of the businesses said they were moderately or extremely concerned that new physical distancing requirements would prohibit their businesses from being profitable.
One stumbling block to the reopening plans brought forward by business owners is the lack of access to the safety supplies such as hand sanitizer and thermometers required to implement the desired safety measures. While the owners wanted to employ these measures, they were finding it difficult if not impossible to obtain these items.