SANTA MONICA, CA — Summer could look different across Los Angeles County, with top health officials reporting Tuesday that its stay-at-home order will likely remain in place through August, barring a dramatic change in the fight against the coronavirus.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer made that statement to the county’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday during a debate over how long a moratorium on rent evictions should be in place.
It’s likely these restrictions will remain in place unless there is a “dramatic change in this virus or in the tools available,” Ferrer said.
U.S. health officials have warned about states reopening too quickly, along with the urgent need for a vaccine. Without adequate preparation, officials believe there could be a resurgence in the virus’ spread, according to The New York Times.
Friday is when the current countywide public health order is to expire. It mandates business closures and calls on residents to remain at home as much as possible, practice social distancing and wear face coverings when interacting with others.
Some restrictions have been lifted since the original order in March, and beaches are set to open Wednesday across Los Angeles County.
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An updated health order is expected to be announced during the county’s coronavirus briefing Wednesday. It’s unclear yet what the order will say.
Ferrer and other county health officials have been frank in recent weeks that social distancing and face coverings will be the “new normal,” likely for months to come, as efforts continue to slow the spread of the virus.
Despite that warning, the county began loosening its stay-at-home restrictions last week, allowing hiking trails and golf courses to reopen. Some retail businesses including toy stores, clothing stores, music shops, florists and sporting goods stores were opened for curbside pickup only. Car dealers were also permitted to reopen under sanitation and social distancing guidelines.
Ferrer indicated during Tuesday’s board meeting that more openings could occur on a much slower basis.
“There’s now no way, unless there was a dramatic change in … this virus and the tools that we have at hand to actually fight against this virus, there’s no way that we could in fact see us not needing to continue with a set of restrictions,” Ferrer said.
Such “dramatic change” would have to include a reliable vaccine, at- home daily testing for COVID-19 and treatment for the infection, she said.
“… Without good therapeutic medicines that are widely available and widely effective, without a vaccination and without the kind of … home testing, rapid-test kits that would let every single person test themselves every single day … what’s left are in the fact the restrictions … that form the biggest part of our community mitigation efforts, and the contact tracing that we do to make sure that we’re able to isolate and quarantine people as appropriate,” she said.
Ferrer did not specify what types of restrictions might remain in place. The countywide Safer At Home order that mandates business closures and urges residents to remain at home as much as possible, practice social distancing and wear face coverings when interacting with others is set to expire Friday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the state was again loosening its statewide umbrella health order, and giving individual counties the authority to allow shopping malls, strip malls and outlet malls to reopen with curbside pickup. The state modification would also allow counties to authorize the reopening of some offices, if workers are unable to work remotely.
Speaking to CNN Tuesday afternoon, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Ferrer’s comments should not be misinterpreted by residents as a sign they will stuck inside their homes through the summer.
“I think quite simply she’s saying we’re not going to fully reopen Los Angeles — and probably anywhere in America — without any protections or any health orders in the next three months,” Garcetti said. “I think we know it’s going to be even longer than three months. As I’ve said a million times, we’re not moving past COVID-19, we’re learning to live with it.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the state was again loosening its statewide umbrella health order, and give individual counties the authority to allow shopping malls, strip malls and outlet malls to reopen with curbside pickup. The state modification would also allow counties to authorize the reopening of some offices, if workers are unable to work remotely.
The state also released guidelines for possible reopening of other businesses, such as car washes, pet groomers and dog walkers. Newsom noted that changing the statewide order doesn’t automatically mean such businesses will be allowed to reopen, with the specific authority delegated to individual counties based on their individual circumstances.
“The statewide order affords the opportunity for local government to come in to reform with those guidelines,” he said. “But one can choose — a region like the Bay Area, the six counties, can choose to be a little bit more … restrictive. Parts of Southern California, L.A. and others the same. So not everyone is compelled into this phase. But that phase is afforded to everybody.”
The state has also released guidelines for dine-in restaurants, when they are eventually allowed to reopen. When such openings are permitted, the guidelines call for restrictions on capacity and mandates on safety, such as face coverings for employees and customers.
– City News Service contributed to this report.