The number of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County topped 30,000 Friday as the county opened the first wave of businesses since ordering sweeping closures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
L.A. County, the epicenter of the pandemic in California, recorded another 883 cases of COVID-19 and 51 deaths Friday, bringing the countywide total to 30,296 with 1,468 deaths attributed to the respiratory illness.
The densely-populated county is home to about a quarter of the state’s population but half of its known infections.
L.A. entered the first phase of gradually reopening its economy after the unrelenting spread of the virus forced closures that have left millions unemployed statewide and threw California into what Gov. Gavin Newsom described as a “pandemic-induced recession.”
Flower, toy, clothing, music and sporting good stores were allowed reopen for curbside pick-up only, providing some relief for businesses that have struggled to stay afloat in recent months. Car dealership showrooms, golf courses and trails will also be open again this weekend.
But that doesn’t mean every one of those locations in the county will reopen right away.
“You cannot open any facility until you meet the the prerequisites that are in our protocols, which are posted online, so that in fact, as you’re opening, everything is going to be as safe as it possibly can,” the county’s public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said Friday in a news conference.
Even as officials begin to ease some of the restrictions, they have warned that L.A. County is not out of the woods yet.
“As these places reopen, we do need to remember the new normal,” Ferrer said. “When we’re out and about more, we have to behave as if anyone could be infected with COVID-19 and that we also could be infected,” Ferrer said.
And with more people now allowed to work in reopened businesses and others out and about seeking their services, L.A. County’s public health director Barbara Ferrer said the county could see a spike in infections, especially if social distancing and other safety protocols aren’t followed.
Ferrer said even as more services become available to residents, people 65 and older and those with underlying health conditions need to stay home as much as possible.
“This is more important now than ever, because there are more people out and about in our communities,” she said.