Officials in March ordered would-be shoppers to stay at home. (Matthew Hall)

Los Angeles County officials outlined plans Wednesday to begin the slow process of reopening Los Angeles and acknowledged that the public could soon return to the county’s beaches.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger said some businesses could open as soon as this Friday with a relaxing of the Safer At Home order in partnership with recent orders from Gov. Gavin Newsom.

She said toy shops, bookstores, car dealerships, clothing retailers, sporting goods stores and music stores will be able to offer curbside pickup Friday. County trails and golf courses can reopen Saturday.

“Our guidelines will certainly look different than others,” she said. “When we reopen, slowly but surely, we must maintain physical distancing, continue to wear face coverings and rely on pickup and delivery.”

She said the first wave of openings are less about the kind of product sold and more about the ability to maintain social distancing.

Ferrer said there are several measurements that need to be in place before reopening is expanded.

“The first is that we need to be sure there’s adequate capacity in our healthcare system,” she said. “And this means that we need adequate health care staffing ventilators personal protection equipment and testing capacity at our hospitals. It also means maintaining surge capacity at the hospitals in case there’s a sharp rise in people who have become seriously ill from COVID-19.”

She said the second prerequisite is to ensure that vulnerable populations are protected. Ferrer said there needs to be adequate personal protective equipment and staffing to manage care in institutional settings.

“The third prerequisite is that we need to make sure that there’s capacity to test, trace and isolate,” she said. “This means being able to test people when it’s appropriate. It also means being able to trace and isolate individuals who are positive for COVID-19, and to have their close contacts quarantine. And we do need to collect data electronically from both providers and labs, including data on race and ethnicity, to allow us again to better understand the spread of COVID-19 across our communities.”

She said the final step is establishing protocols to keep workers, customers and residents safe as they reenter the workplace.

Beaches are not specifically mentioned in the first wave of openings, but Ferrer said there is a plan to reopen the sand.

“… there is a plan, it will go in effect at some point in the very near future that will allow again for a slow reopening of our beaches in a way that’s as safe as possible but I do want to thank everyone who’s been working on that plan. And I know that we can all look forward to that happening pretty soon.”

The county has a five-stage program for reopening with more businesses allowed to open in each stage with an analysis of case spread necessary before the county moves from stage to stage.

Stage 1 is the current Safer at Home rule. Friday would mark the start of Stage 2 with some non-essential businesses opening. Stage 3 includes higher-risk businesses such as theaters and schools. Stage 4 would include the most at-risk businesses such as sports venues and large conventions. Stage 5 is a return to pre-virus operations.

Eventually, the Stage 2 openings would include cultural venues such as museums and galleries but Ferrer said all reopened businesses would do so with new rules to limit contact between patrons.

“So, as we move through the stages of recovery, we will be issuing protocols for each sector, on what measures, they must take to slow the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “And these do include protecting and supporting workers and customers for their health and their safety, limiting in person work and ensuring that vulnerable workers have alternate assignments, providing cloth face coverings and personal protective equipment to all employees and asking that anyone entering the business, also wear a cloth face covering.”

She said the number of customers in a business will also be limited and the county will be tracking the spread of the disease following each step to evaluate if new businesses can reopen without endangering the public.

To date, Public Health has identified 28,644 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County, and a total of 1,367 deaths. There are currently 198 confirmed cases in Santa Monica.

matthew@smdp.com

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