Coronavirus in Los Angeles

Los Angeles retail is starting to reopen amid the coronavirus, but citizens in the county should expect to remain mostly at home for some weeks to come.

During a daily agenda meeting to approve a number of measures, like the extension of protections for L.A. tenants from evictions if they cannot pay rent due to the effects of the coronavirus lockdown in place since March, the Board of Supervisors said “safer-at-home” orders, telling people to stay at home whenever possible, are expected to be extended at least through July.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Health, explained that the tentative plan for the county is to “slowly lift” restrictions in place over the next three months, but even that is in question if there is not a dramatic increase in testing availability, including the ability for people to test themselves daily from home. As there is no vaccine and no meaningful therapeutic remedy yet available, Ferrer sees measures like this as the only way to ensure the coronavirus does not continue to spread in the region. L.A. County has seen more than 32,000 cases of coronavirus as of Monday, along with close to 1,600 deaths, numbers that have continued to increase over the weeks.

L.A. beaches are set to reopen on Wednesday, but only to an extent. Only active recreation will be allowed, like exercise and surfing, and anyone not in the water will be required to wear a mask. Lounging on towels and chairs, what most people do at the beach in California, will continue to be prohibited. Similar restrictions are in place for outdoor areas like hiking trails and parks.

The move by L.A. officials comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed further modifications to the statewide stay-at-home order, after last week allowing most nonessential retail and related manufacturing in the state to begin offering curbside pickup.

Now Newsom is allowing offices for businesses that cannot enact remote work to reopen, so long as they have the ability to ensure physical distancing between employees and offer things like masks and disinfectant materials. 

“We’re moving deeper into phase two, not phase three, but I hope this is encouraging to people,” Newsom said in his daily telebriefing.

“Public health and the economy are directly connected,” he added.   

Early last week Newsom laid out a four-phase plan for restarting California’s economy, but noted it was only due to progress seen in hospitalizations and access to PPE. Should there be another wave of coronavirus infections, he said rules on the public would be tightened again. The pandemic has already taken a severe financial toll on the state, as Newsom said Monday in a public letter to the Trump White House that state and local governments are in need of $1 trillion in federal support.

“It is now clear that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, and the worst of its economic impact is yet to come,” Newsom wrote in the statement.   

But on Tuesday, the governor clarified some elements of the loosening on retail in California. He said it includes retail businesses located in malls, which are free to offer curbside pickup while abiding by guidelines outlined last week. But the public mall space, where people congregate and go from store to store, cannot yet reopen.

Newsom also said specific guidelines for the restaurant industry, most of which is offering takeout but has been prohibited from inside dining for two months, are imminent. The dine-in experience is expected to be much changed, with waitstaff in protective gear and far fewer tables in restaurants to ensure people keep their distance. He did not comment on businesses like salons and barbers, but Newsom has previously described this type of work as “high risk” for spreading the virus.

Overall, businesses that are starting to reopen in the state are getting industry-specific guidelines that must be followed, but all are aimed at keeping workers and patrons from contracting or spreading the coronavirus. Generally workers are expected to do business in masks and gloves; employers are expected to have plentiful disinfecting products and ensure physical distancing, and patrons are expected to wear masks whenever they visit a business. 

For More, See:

No More PPP Loans to Big Business, State Attorneys Demand

Retail Tenants, Landlords in L.A. at Odds On Rent Relief

Calif. Inches Toward Businesses Reopening As Other States Race