Thanks to the decrease in the number of cases and changes implemented by the state in response to vaccination efforts, Los Angeles County officials said Monday they were preparing to move to a less restrictive level of the plan. State’s Covid-19 economic reopening from next week.
But if the county will approve all reopenings authorized in the “red” level of this plan – like the meals inside – remains unclear.
Moving from the restrictive “purple” level to the red level will allow the county to increase capacity limits for retail establishments and reopen indoor restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters. However, the county is not bound by state guidelines on easing restrictions. It can impose stricter orders and continue to impose stricter rules.
Los Angeles, Orange counties are very close to a less restrictive Covid-19 reopening level
For example, while the county currently allows outdoor dining in the purple level, it still prohibits restaurants from turning on televisions on their patios, in an effort to prevent gatherings of sports fans. The state does not have such a restriction on restaurants.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has said on several occasions over the past year that he wants to give local health officials leeway in reopening, allowing them to be more stringent – but no less stringent – than the rules of the state.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Monday that while the county is fully committed to implementing a key element of the Red Level – reopening in-person classes for grades 7 through 12 year – she would only say that health officials are in talks with the board of supervisors about more business reopenings. And she again insisted that in-person meals at restaurants pose a high risk of transmitting COVID-19.
“We are working with the Supervisory Board and all of our sectors to plan for what will be a reasonable and safe reopening, as authorized by the state, but appropriate for our county,” Ferrer said. “And we will be sure to share this information not only with all of you, but especially with all sectors in a timely manner later this week.”
She said the county was trying to “come up with a reasonable plan on how to move forward.”
Ferrer and other local health officials have long resisted reopening restaurants. For months, they were criticized for having little empirical evidence to support their closure orders, and the California Restaurant Association finally obtained a court order allowing its Los Angeles members to reopen for an al fresco dinner. .
While discussing possible reopenings as part of the red shutter on Monday, however, Ferrer referred to a recent study by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that specifically discussed the danger of the spread of Covid posed by “on-site meals. in restaurants ”. The county has at times been reluctant during the pandemic to allow on-site dining – indoors or out – which has led to lawsuits from individual restaurants and the California Restaurant Association.
“As we plan to go down to the red level, where additional reopenings will be allowed, we are taking a close look at the science to understand what practices can help reduce community transmission of Covid-19,” Ferrer said.
According to Ferrer, the CDC study assessed government policies in more than 3,000 counties and their impact on COVID case rates and death rates.
“The study found that being allowed to eat on site in restaurants is associated with a significant increase in the growth rates of cases … after reopening, and an increase in death rates 60 to 100 days after the lifting of the cases. restrictions, ”Ferrer said.
She added, “Allowing on-site restaurant meals has been associated with increased county-level case and death rates, and this is something we will need to take into account when we start more re-openings at our restaurants. . Mask warrants and a ban on eating in restaurants … have been shown to limit potential exposures to the virus, resulting in less community transmission. “
The county was initially set to turn red later this month, with the rate of new daily COVID-19 infections expected to fall below the state-prescribed threshold of 7 cases per 100,000 population as of Tuesday. If the county maintained this level for two weeks, it would drop from the purple level to the red level.
The state, however, changed the thresholds to pass through the Four-Tier Plan for a Safer Economy last week, taking into account the volume of vaccines administered in hard-hit, low-income communities across the state. . The new thresholds could come into force as early as this week,
when the state reaches the milestone of administering 2 million doses of vaccine to these hard-hit neighborhoods.
When that happens, to level red, a county will need to have a new case rate of 10 per 100,000 population – a rate that Los Angeles County will already have reached for the required two weeks. Ferrer said that means the county will likely turn red by the middle of next week.
As part of the red level, state guidelines also allow capacity to be increased to 50% in retail stores, while cinemas, museums and aquariums could open at 25% capacity. Indoor dining in restaurants is permitted up to 25% of capacity and indoor fitness centers up to 10% of capacity. Again, all guidelines are subject to county approval.
Governor Newsom is, of course, faced with a possible recall election in the fall. He urged the state to visit immunization clinics and ease restrictions on reopening schools and local communities.
Los Angeles County reported 13 more Covid-related deaths on Monday, bringing the county’s death toll from throughout the pandemic to 22,041.
Another 880 cases were announced by the county, while health officials in Long Beach added 41 and Pasadena 10, bringing the cumulative pandemic total to 1,204,069.
The number of new deaths and cases is generally low on Monday due to delays in reporting compared to the weekend.
According to state figures, 1,119 people were hospitalized in the county due to COVID on Monday, with 334 people in intensive care.
As of Friday, 2,415,460 doses of the COVID vaccine were administered in the county. This includes 814,593 second doses, which represents the number of people who were fully immunized.
The county is expected to receive around 312,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine this week, its highest weekly allocation yet. Health officials hope that number will continue to rise as more people become eligible for vaccines and more businesses and activities reopen, resulting in a greater mix of residents.
City News Service contributed to this report.