Los Angeles County has permitted restaurants, hair salons and barbershops throughout the county to open as soon as Friday night if they follow physical distancing and infection control protocols.
Gov. Gavin Newsom gave L.A. County the green light to allow restaurants and hair salons to serve customers in person after the county demonstrated it had met certain public health metrics required to move into an accelerated Stage 2 of the state’s reopening plan. Counties may reopen more quickly if they can demonstrate that less than 8% of people tested for coronavirus in one week have tested positive or fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 people have been confirmed over two weeks.
L.A. County officials told the state that 6.5% of people tested for coronavirus over the last week have tested positive and the number of people hospitalized has fallen slightly each day to 1,462 as of Friday.
But L.A. County still saw about 99 new cases per 100,000 residents over the last two weeks — four times the number the state has set as a requirement for accelerated reopening. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer confirmed 1,824 new cases Friday — 500 of which resulted from one lab’s backlog — and 50 deaths, pushing the total number of cases in the county past 51,000 and the death toll to nearly 2,300.
To date, Santa Monica has had 267 cases of coronavirus, with 22 cases reported since last Friday. Eighteen residents have died from COVID-19.
Although the week prior saw a record low number of new cases diagnosed, there have been 103 cases reported since May 1 — nearly the same number that were confirmed in April.
But testing capacity has increased since last month with a new walk-up testing site at Santa Monica College, and more than 6,600 residents had been tested as of Friday, according to a county dashboard.
Despite the continued threat of the virus, Ferrer said she was confident in restaurants and salons to reopen in a way that protects their employees and customers. The county on Tuesday reopened retail stores, including those within malls, and houses of worship at decreased capacity to facilitate physical distancing.
Ferrer said businesses will be expected to comply with public health requirements on the honor system and will not need to undergo an inspection before reopening, although county inspectors will be inspecting businesses after they open and providing technical assistance.
“The new normal … reflects the fact that COVID-19 is still very active in our communities,” Ferrer said. “There’s a great deal at stake in the reopening.”
Both restaurants and salons must screen employees and customers for cough, fever and other symptoms, and all staff and customers must wear masks, county officials said.
Hair stylists and barbers may only serve one client at a time and clients will be asked not to pay with cash.
Restaurants, which will be able to seat customers at 60% of building capacity, must place diners six feet apart, maximize physical distancing in kitchens and disinfect surfaces frequently.
Reservations will be encouraged and customers will be asked to wait for their table in their cars or outside the restaurant to prevent crowding.
Santa Monica is planning to allow restaurants to open seating areas on sidewalks or streets to help facilitate physical distancing, Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said last week.
“We are committed to facilitating a safe reopening and need everyone’s commitment as we move forward,” Dilg said Friday. “Please follow all public health guidelines as you venture out to get a haircut or to enjoy our prized local restaurants and retail.”
Ferrer said Friday that African Americans, Latinos, Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and people living in poor communities have been dying from COVID-19 at higher rates in large part because they are more likely to be essential workers.
Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders have the highest death rate at 108 per 100,000 people, and African Americans and Latinos follow at 28 and 25 per 100,000, respectively.
Asians have a death rate of 18 and whites have a death rate of 14. In poor communities, 46 of every 100,000 people have died from COVID-19, compared to just 12 in affluent areas.
Ferrer said people of color are also more likely to work in retail stores and restaurants, which are now reopening.
“The disproportionality really reflects who is working and in what jobs they are working,” Ferrer said.
Director of Health Services Christina Ghaly said it is too early to tell whether relaxing the county’s Safer at Home order has led to an uptick in cases.
If the county does see an uptick in cases in couple of weeks, it would mean the rate of infection had already been increasing in late May.
“We could be in the midst of an upward curve, or it could be flat,” she said. “We just don’t know yet.”