The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued an order on June 11 allowing various businesses to reopen following consistent decline in infection rates from late April until then. But the state has experienced a record increase in daily cases since reopening and questions are being raised about whether this order was issued too soon.
Los Angeles County issued an order to synchronize the county’s efforts with Gov. Gavin Newsome’s executive order as the state transitions into stage 3 of the state’s pandemic resilience roadmap. The order states that restrictions may resurface should the conditions warrant it, and that might not be an unlikely outcome.
At the end of April, Los Angeles county was experiencing an infection rate of nearly 2,000 cases a day. But between May 21 and June 11, the period the order went into effect, the average number of cases dropped to 1,377. Since the reopening on June 11 to June 21, the average number jumped to 1,405, and went past 1,500 June 20 and 21.
The order was signed based on a steady decline, but the trend has gone the other way leaving everybody to wonder what will happen if the daily numbers continue upward. But cities across the country have suffered an economic downtown since the shutdown in March. Some, like the City of Carson, feel that the recent numbers suffice to reopen.
“We are ready to reopen safely,” Mayor Albert Robles said. “In fact, I believe here in Carson, we’ve been ready to reopen, as I have observed our residents to be respectful and observant of the social distancing protocols, especially wearing the mask.”
When asked about his feelings on the recent uptick, Robles said that his city is following the county’s steps. Carson’s rates are lower than they were after being deemed a hot spot early on in the pandemic. Its case rate is 621 compared with the unincorporated city of Castaic which has the highest case rate in the county at 6,366. To give readers in San Pedro a picture, San Pedro’s case rate is 1,390.
This order allows people to engage in all permitted activities while maintaining a social distance of six feet and wearing a mask when having to speak or interact with somebody face to face. And, as a relief to many, it also gives various businesses the opportunity to open their doors again and begin trying to make up for the lost three months. Retail shops, manufacturing and logistics work, indoor malls, barber shops and nail salons are amongst those allowed to reopen their doors.
Along with some businesses being able to operate again, after what seemed like an eternity, people can begin enjoying the outdoors in a limited capacity. Also, social activities such as attending church, outdoor recreation, swimming pools, fishing operations and all substance abuse and health care treatment can resume with social distancing and other related restrictions in effect. Churches are only allowed to fill a quarter of their capacity.
Though the state and the counties would like for all to be on the same page, some places are affected significantly more than others, even within the same county. So, this order also gives cities the autonomy to make its own decisions when it comes down to placing restrictions, just not easing them.
The county and its health officers will continue monitoring the situation to tell if the order needs to be revised or rescinded. They’ll look into things like the number of new hospitalizations and deaths, the capacity of hospitals and the healthcare system in the city or county. They’ll also keep tabs on medical equipment and supplies, and the abilities to test for the virus and conduct contact tracing quickly and accurately.
“This week, we held our fourth economic resiliency task force meeting and heard from nonprofit, labor, religious and arts organizations and the health care and bio industry,” Los Angeles County Public Health Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “We are also working with many other sectors to develop roadmaps for the safe reopenings of other businesses and organizations. During this process, we are committed to our communities and our businesses while keeping our residents safe.”
The county has been efficient with its contact tracing efforts and said to have made 100 percent of follow up calls within a day of learning of an infected person within their county limits. But their contact tracing staff remains underemployed with a bit more than 10 percent of Gavin Newsom’s target of 10,000 tracers.
For the time being, those who were at high risk of contracting and or spreading covid, such as the elderly or those with health problems, should remain in place and continue to practice stay at home protections, especially with numbers beginning to rise again.
“Ninety-three percent of the people who’ve passed away from COVID-19 had underlying health conditions,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said. “And, this number has remained consistent throughout the pandemic.”
Business owners are told to follow the restrictions in place and to make sure they keep signs posted in visible sight, telling would-be customers of the necessary precautions before entering their store. They’re also required to meet with their employees to ensure they understand all of the restrictions before getting back on the clock.
“Before reopening, we ask the new businesses that are opening to implement the directives that are in our protocols,” Dr. Ferrer said. “These protocols, as a reminder, are not recommendations, they’re requirements and we ask that you fully implement them before you open your doors and we give you an opportunity to share your plan with all of your employees prior to reopening. Let’s give thanks to our leaders and never lose sight of the power of policy and advocacy and organizing, as we work together to close the gap on COVID-19 health outcomes.”