L.A. County is poised to move into the red tier of Covid-19 restrictions, allowing for the reopening of secondary schools and many indoor businesses.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said it’s “very possible that we’ll enter the red tier as early as next week” as County case rates are currently at 7.2 per 100,000 residents.

Under the red tier restaurants, museums, and movie theaters can reopen indoors at 25 percent capacity and gyms can reopen indoors at 10 percent capacity. Retails stores that are currently open indoors at 25 percent capacity will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity.

Secondary schools will be allowed to reopen once the case rate has been at or below seven per 100,000 residents for two consecutive weeks.

At the elementary level, 34 school districts and 303 private and charter schools have been approved for in-person instruction in L.A. County.

Santa Monica-Malibu Schools will begin offering in-person experiences for transitional kindergarten through grade 5 the week of March 15. District officials have not yet announced a reopening plan for secondary schools.

Ferrer expressed confidence that with increased vaccinations and strict safety protocols schools will be able to continue reopening safely across the County.

“The data both nationally and here in L.A. County indicates that schools are not the highest risk settings in terms of toleration of COVID-19,” said Ferrer. “Outbreaks in schools that reopen are relatively rare as the protocols in place prevented significant transmission at school sites.”

Outbreaks at schools peaked at 15 during the height of the surge in January and have steadily decreased since then. In the month of February only one outbreak was recorded.

Ferrer noted that of the education staff that tested positive for Covid-19 since Sep. 1, many did not have an exposure at school. In this time period only 27 percent of infected staff were teachers while 67 percent were other essential education staff including food services, custodial, and transportation workers.

Secondary schools can already begin submitting reopening forms in what Ferrer described as a “pretty straightforward” approval process.

All schools must submit a Covid-19 safety plan to the California and County departments of public health and post their reopening protocol on their school website.

“We really need to recommit ourselves to use every single tool we have to reduce transmission, to vaccinate everybody who’s eligible, and to get to a place for all our children to go back to school,” said Ferrer. “We owe them all of our support and effort.”

Clara@smdp.com