L.A. County gets permission to reopen restaurants, barbershops, hair salons

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Los Angeles County was granted permission from the state of California Friday to reopen barbershops and hair salons, as well as restaurants for in-person dining.

Officials said the businesses can reopen as soon as they can meet public safety guidelines. In-person dining restaurant protocols are available online for those within the City of L.A., and the county is expected to release its guidance later Friday.

“This further brings our communities together and resumes a sense of normalcy, representing monumental progress for Los Angeles County as we join the vast majority of other regions in California on the path toward reopening and recovery,” county Supervisor Kathryn Barger said.

L.A. County restaurants can only reopen at 60% occupancy, and outdoor seating should be prioritized, officials said. Everyone will have to wear face masks when they’re not eating and both staff and customers should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

The county encouraged restaurants to require reservations and have patrons wait for their tables outside. Bar areas inside the restaurants have to remain closed.

County health inspectors will be out inspecting the newly reopened businesses, local eateries and hair-cutting businesses don’t have to undergo any inspections before they can reopen, the county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said.

Barger said the county will put out more roadmaps to safely reopen key sectors next week, including restaurants, sports venues, theme parks, corporate businesses and manufacturing, and film and digital media.

L.A. County earlier this week allowed places of worship and retail stories to reopen for in-person services, but at limited capacity and with strict safety guidelines, aligning the county’s health orders with the state’s.

The California Department of Public Health has released guidance for hair salons and barbershops, which are only allowed to reopen for services that permit both the customer and employee to wear face coverings. That means services like eyebrow waxing and facials are still not allowed.

Drive-in theaters, flea markets, swap meets and pools in apartment complexes were also allowed to reopen. Still closed in L.A. County are nail salons, gyms, bars and nightclubs, theaters, stadiums, theme parks, piers, playgrounds, museums and community centers.

“This is a significant step forward revitalizing our economy, particularly supporting our local businesses who often rely on foot traffic and thrive, because of in-store shopping,” Barger said.

But even as officials move forward with reopening more areas, densely-populated L.A. County remains the epicenter of the pandemic in California.

With 51,562 known coronavirus infections and 2,290 deaths as of Friday, L.A. County continues to account for about half the state’s coronavirus cases and deaths — though it’s home to only about a quarter of California’s population.

Ferrer warned that the threat of COVID-19 is still present, and reopened businesses will look very different.

“The new normal that you’re going to see reflected in the businesses, reflects the fact that COVID-19 is still very active in our communities and there’s a great deal at stake in the reopening,” she said.

As more businesses reopen, she urged residents to continue wearing face coverings and practicing physical distancing.

“The actions that we take today affect what we’ll see in terms of cases hospitalizations and deaths several weeks from now,” Ferrer said.

Director of Health Services Dr. Christina Ghaly said it’s still too early to tell if there has been a spike in infections as a result of more spaces being allowed to reopen in recent weeks.

“If we do see an uptick in cases in a couple of weeks from now, it will likely mean that there’s already been two to four weeks of increasing transmission by that time,” Ghaly said. “So at this point, we could be in the midst of a new upward curve, or transmission may not have increased at all. We just don’t know yet.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom stressed that though the state can give counties the green light and the guidelines to reopen additional spaces, it’s up to local officials.

L.A. County had applied for a variance from the state on Wednesday, with Barger saying the county “has achieved necessary readiness criteria.” 

Ferrer said officials were able to apply as a result of the county’s testing and contact tracing rates increasing, and the positivity rate for the coronavirus going down. 

“The only reason we were able to successfully submit a variance, was because of all the work everyone has done throughout our county,” she said.

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