L.A. mayor says latest reopenings don’t signal a return to normal: ‘That’s false, it’s foolish’

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After county health officials on Wednesday announced the reopening of indoor salons and in-person schooling for some students, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti warned residents to uphold practices meant to limit the spread of COVID-19.  

“Last time there were some reopenings, I think some folks drew the wrong message that the virus was behind us, that we could let down our guard, go back to normal,” the mayor said during an evening briefing. “That’s false, it’s foolish. And as we learned it can be fatal.”

Garcetti emphasized that people would have to remain distanced over Labor Day weekend to avoid another surge like those that followed Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Additionally, the city’s coronavirus testing will be more limited over the weekend due to the holiday as well as expected scorching temperatures. As a result, drive-thru sites will be closed Saturday and Monday, Garcetti said, but mobile testing teams will be working across the city throughout the weekend.

County health officials earlier Wednesday said they would allow hair salons and barber shops to resume indoor services at limited capacity, and that some K-12 schools can soon hold in-person classes for students with specific needs. That includes those taking English as a second language, those who need assessments or require specialized in-school services.

Qualifying schools must keep students in cohorts of less than 12 students and two supervisors.

The county is not currently accepting waivers for elementary schools to resume in-person instruction for all students, but it will use the new program to learn about what works. It could help for a broader school reopening “later this fall if the county reaches a moderate or minimal risk level,” Garcetti said.

“As a parent, as mayor, I hope that we will continue to do everything we can, especially for our younger children, some of whom are being left at home by parents who have to work or whose parents incomes are going straight into child care,” he said.

As of Wednesday, L.A. County had confirmed a total of nearly 244,000 coronavirus cases resulting in 5,878 fatalities. That’s an increase of 1,457 cases and 51 deaths over the previous day.

Currently, about 30,940 people in the county are considered actively infectious, Garcetti said.

Still, Garcetti painted a rosy picture of current COVID-19 trends and said the county is headed “in the right direction.”

He pointed to COVID-19 hospitalizations being at their lowest point since early April, with 1,062 patients currently being treated in county hospitals.

“To put that in perspective, in just the last five weeks alone we’ve cut our hospitalizations by more than half,” he said. “And that’s good news because our top public health goal is to keep hospitalizations low and beds and medical staff available for any emergency, including COVID-19.”

The mayor also said L.A. County ranks 19th out of all California counties in COVID-19 cases per 400,000 residents. That city of L.A. also saw 100 fewer deaths in August than it did in July.

“Considering our density and the poverty and other challenges that we faced long before this with pre-existing conditions and health vulnerabilities, this is good news,” he said.

Meanwhile, the county’s rate of virus transmission remains below 1, which means each infected individual passes COVID-19 on to fewer than one person on average.

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