Still in purple COVID-19 tier, L.A. County relaxing some restrictions on schools, breweries, entertainment centers

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Despite remaining in the most-restrictive reopening tier with widespread coronavirus transmission, Los Angeles County officials announced Wednesday they will be easing some local coronavirus rules to align with the state’s.

The new changes increase the number of high-need students returning to classrooms, remove certain requirements for breweries and wineries, and allow family entertainment centers to open outdoors.

Schools opening at 25% capacity for kids with special needs

While schools in L.A. County can’t reopen for in-person instruction for most students, campuses were allowed to bring back children with special needs and English learners — but only at 10% capacity.

Now, the county is increasing the capacity to 25%, allowing more students who need special services to return to campuses.

“We will now increase to 25% capacity for high need students, so more children and youth can have access to their teachers, and the on-site support systems that are so critical for their growth and for their education,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a Wednesday news conference.

As of Monday, a total of 986 L.A. County schools had reopened for in-person learning for high-need students, bringing back nearly 35,000 students and 20,000 staff to campuses, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

The state has also allowed the county to process waivers for reopening elementary schools for in-person learning, and so far the health department has received 110 waiver applications from schools to open for grades TK-2 — the majority of them private schools.

So far, only four of the schools have received the waiver to reopen, health officials said Wednesday.

Easing restrictions for breweries and wineries

Breweries and wineries will no be longer required to have customers make reservations one day in advance, officials said.

Barger said the county will later this week also remove the food requirement for wineries. The county in September had permitted breweries and wineries to open if they partner with a third-party food vendor. 

Family entertainment centers can reopen

The county will update its health officer order to allow family entertainment centers to open outdoors, Barger said.

“I hope this provides much needed relief, and respite for residents who are looking for some activities outside of their homes — these updates will also bring more employees back to work,” Barger said.

County officials did not specify the types of entertainment centers that will reopen, but the state allows counties in the purple tier to resume outdoor operations at skate parks, outdoor roller and ice skating at 25% capacity, outdoor laser tag, outdoor paintball, batting cages, kart racing and miniature golf.

Where L.A. County stands

The high daily coronavirus case numbers continue to keep the county in the state’s most restrictive purple tier.

The overall test positivity rate in L.A. County— at 3.4% — and the positivity rate in the county’s lowest-resourced areas — at 5.9% — both meet the state’s requirements for moving to the next tier.

But L.A. County’s adjusted case rate is at 7.6 new cases per 100,000 people. That number would need to go down to 7 or less and stay there for two weeks straight in order for the county to advance to the less-restrictive red tier, Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday.

While the county continues to make progress, Ferrer said there’s been some “concerning” small increases in daily case numbers and test positivity rates.

“At the beginning of August, all the way through the start of September, we were averaging under 800 cases per day. However, since the middle of September we started to see the daily number of cases creep up, and this is a cause for some worry,” Ferrer said. Last week, the average number of cases was about 1,000 cases per day.

So far, L.A. County has recorded a total of 290,486 coronavirus cases and 6,944 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

Correction: A video has been removed from this post because it incorrectly indicated both breweries and wineries will no longer have a food requirement. In fact, the county is only removing that requirement for wineries.

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