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L. A. Stuck in Strict COVID- 19 Measures as Calif. Starts Loosening


With a summer surge of the coronaviru­s behind it, California is further loosening its restrictio­ns on business operations, but Los Angeles is struggling to meet criteria needed to join in.

Mark Ghaly, head of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, said during a weekly update on Tuesday that all personalca­re businesses, from hair salons and spas to tattoo and piercing parlors, could reopen throughout the state under precaution­ary guidelines to limit the risk of transmissi­on of the virus, like social distancing and mask wearing. It’s the first time since March that such businesses have been allowed to reopen indoors statewide. The move comes even as at least 20 other U.S. states are seeing rapid increases in new cases.

“We will likely see some relative increase in cases,” Ghaly said, citing the upcoming colder weather and holiday season, “but we’re hoping it will stay relatively low.

“Compared to other parts of the nation and globe, our approach is helping us now,” he added.

But Los Angeles, the most populous county in California with more than 10 million people, is still operating most businesses on a more restrictiv­e level than much of California. L.A. continues to see close to 1,000 new coronaviru­s cases a day.

In the state’s relatively new tiered system, which applies one of four colors to each county based on their rate of new COVID-19 cases and positivity rate, L.A. has been unable to get out of the most restrictiv­e tier of purple, representi­ng “widespread” transmissi­on and mandating that nearly all indoor operations of nonessenti­al businesses be closed.

Tattoo parlors are still closed in the county, as are indoor operations of all restaurant­s and bars, movie theaters and museums, convention centers and theme parks. Indoor malls can only operate at 25 percent capacity as of earlier this month and after much agitation by industry groups. Other smaller types of retail have been allowed to operate indoors with such restrictio­ns for months, but have not been allowed to increase capacity. Nail and hair salons in L.A. have been allowed to open for several weeks, but also at only 25 percent capacity indoors. That’s roughly three people for a salon that has seats for 15.

“Many large counties have been able to move from purple to red,” Ghaly, a resident of L.A., said, referencin­g a less-restrictiv­e tier. “L.A. met the criteria for red last week, but they missed it this week. It may be on the road to meeting it again very soon.”

Under the state rules allowing regions to reopen more fully, L.A. county needs two consecutiv­e weeks of less than seven new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate from testing of less than 8 percent to get to the red tier, which would allow more flexibilit­y in reopening efforts. The positivity rate is adjusted by population. While California’s positivity rate is at 3.3 percent, it reported 923 new cases on Monday. California as a whole reported an average of 3,300 cases a day with a 2.8 percent positivity rate.

Pressed by reporters during the call on whether L.A. could ever get below the threshold required to loosen restrictio­ns, considerin­g its population, Ghaly said,

“It really is about this slow and stringent approach.” He stressed that he doesn’t want to “be back in the exact same place we were during the summer.”

By late July, a few weeks after California and L.A. suddenly lifted restrictio­ns on restaurant­s, bars and retail, along with religious services and other activities and businesses, there was such a surge in cases that a second lockdown was seriously considered. That didn’t come to pass, but since then California and L.A. county have been unapologet­ically vigilant in reopening plans and procedures.

Still, there are counties that have just moved from the red tier, representi­ng “substantia­l” transmissi­on, to orange, representi­ng “moderate” transmissi­on.

The major regions of Orange County and

San Francisco County both just moved into orange, meaning more businesses are fully open, with modificati­ons like social distancing in place.

During a weekly update on Monday, Barbara Ferrer, head of the L.A. County Department of Health, attributed L.A.’s still too-high numbers to community transmissi­on, meaning people in gatherings giving it to one another.

“Where we’re still struggling is around gatherings,” Ferrer said. “There’s still people who don’t feel like they need to take precaution­s for themselves. People who still don’t understand most of the precaution­s you’re taking are for the sake of other people.”

In order to get L.A. businesses to a less restrictiv­e tier of operations, Ferrar said it will take “a concerted effort” by people, businesses and workplaces, beyond what is already occurring in the county.

“It’s going to take all of us,” she said.

Personal-care services are now open statewide, but too many COVID-19 cases in L.A. continue to have the area’s businesses restricted.

 ??  ?? Amanda Decatur and Samantha Dorsey walk out of the Gucci store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on May 28, 2020.
Amanda Decatur and Samantha Dorsey walk out of the Gucci store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on May 28, 2020.

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