L.A. County announces first businesses allowed to reopen Friday under ‘strict protocols’

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Los Angeles County officials have announced the first round of businesses and locations that will be allowed to reopen under strict protocols on Friday, after months of being closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Trails, golf courses, florists, car dealerships and stores that sell toys, books, clothing, sporting goods and music will be among the first to reopen their doors later this week, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said at a news conference Wednesday. The required safety measures that must be followed to reopen include physical distancing, the use of face masks by employees and customers, as well as other infection control practices.

Additional information on the county’s reopening protocols will be issued on Thursday, with specifics being tailored to each sector.

“All of the businesses that will be reopening will open in a much modified way that allows for optimum physical distancing and infection control practices,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, said.

The county detailed five phases in its reopening plan — Friday will mark the entrance into phase two. The businesses will only be allowed to offer curb-side pickup while in-store shopping will remain on hold during this phase.

While golf courses will open back up, their retail shops must remain closed, and restaurants and concession stands will only be allowed to offer takeout.

Reopened trails will also be closely monitored to make sure there is no overcrowding and safety protocols are being followed.

Essential healthcare, outdoor recreation, libraries, museums, cultural centers and galleries will also be allowed to gradually reopen during this phase.

“Los Angeles County cannot be more lenient on which stores can reopen than the state dictates,” Barger said. “This list is less about the products that are sold, and more about the ability to maintain social distancing.”

Beaches in L.A. County will still remain closed, while other low-risk, non-essential businesses will likely be allowed to reopen slowly within the next week, officials said.

The third reopening stage would allow for the reopening of higher-risk businesses including movie theaters, schools, colleges, massage parlors, bars and nightclubs “slowly and with modifications.”

“These businesses will need to operate at reduced occupancy to ensure that there’s physical distancing,” Ferrer said.

The fourth phase would include the reopening of the highest risk businesses which include convention centers, entertainment venues and sporting events.

The fifth and final phase of reopening would be all businesses and public spaces returning to fully “normal operations.”

Ferrer did not discuss when the other phases of reopening were expected to begin.

County officials said as the safer-at-home order begins to relax on Friday, as some people get back to work and more people venture out, safety must remain at the forefront as cases of coronavirus continue to grow.

County officials said physical distancing, face coverings, frequent hand washing, self-isolation and self-quarantine will remain essential throughout the “foreseeable future.”

On Wednesday, 55 new coronavirus deaths were reported, bringing the countywide death toll to 1,367. The total of confirmed coronavirus cases in L.A. County was 28,644.

Safeguards for reopening

At Wednesday’s briefing, Ferrer also unveiled the county’s “Roadmap to Recovery” that will be in place as other non-essential businesses and services plan to reopen.

The first safeguard will be to make sure the county has enough hospital capacity, including ventilators and intensive care unit beds, adequate healthcare staffing, personal protective equipment, testing capacity and supplies, and maintaining surge capacity.

The second safeguard is to ensure the vulnerable population is protected by having adequate personal protective equipment and staffing and appropriate resting for employees and residents for COVID-19 at the county’s institutional settings, which includes nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“There needs to be capacity to manage and respond to institutional cases of COVID-19 quickly and effectively by isolating and quarantining as required,” Ferrer said.

The third safeguard is the county’s capacity to test, trace and isolate.

“This means being able to test people when it’s appropriate. It also means being able to trace and isolate individuals who are COVID-19 positive, and to have their close contacts quarantined,” Ferrer explained.

The county will be examining mortality and hospitalization rates by age, poverty level, and race and ethnicity to better understand the spread of the virus across the different communities.

Lastly, the county will set specific safety protocols in place to keep employees, customers and residents as safe as possible.

“As we move from one stage to the next, we will always have to review how well we’re doing to slow the spread,” Ferrer said.

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