LA County Reopens Retail Sector for In-Store Shopping

Shopping centers can open at 50 percent capacity

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Officials in Los Angeles County on Tuesday announced that they reached a major “recovery milestone” and that all retail locations can open to in-store shopping. 

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Lawmakers are moving toward “sweeping new standards for swift and safe reopening,” in alignment with the state, they said. That includes shopping at low-risk retail stores, as well as drive-in movies, flea markets and swap meets. Retail located in indoor and outdoor shopping can now open at 50 percent capacity.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health has identified 47,822 positive cases of coronavirus across  the county — more than half of the cases in the state of California — and a total of 2,143 deaths. But officials updated the Health Officer to reflect that the county and city met the state’s thresholds, making them confident enough to move forward. And earlier this month, the Economic Resiliency Task Force announced the beginning of “fast-track plans” to reopen the economy by July 4.

Reopening retail is “part of a phased progression guiding the safe resumption of public life,” county officials said in the announcement. Every store must adopt county safety protocols that ensure they are safe for workers and customers, including requirements for physical distancing and face covering. Residents are also still encouraged to remain in their homes as much as practical, and limit close contact with others outside their household both indoor and outdoor. Teleworking should still continue as much as possible.

“This is another big milestone for L.A, County as, step by step, we begin safely reopening our communities and economy,” Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement. “But reopening does not mean going back to business as usual. As long as community members follow safety rules, we can continue to make more progress.”

The change also sets the stage for the county to request a variance from the state to permit swifter reopening of some sectors.

“Aligning L.A. County’s health orders with that of the state’s is going to provide immediate relief to our communities,” said Kathryn Barger, chair of the County Board of Supervisors.

In a public address Tuesday, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Angelenos did their job, and stopped working “at the price of great economic suffering in order to save our fellow human beings.” But now it’s “time to move forward and reopen.”

“We’re not moving beyond COVID-19, we’re learning to live with it,” he said. “We know that there are things we’ll have to do until we know we are fully out of the woods.”

The mayor pointed out that retail options that also include either pharmacies and or grocery stores — like Target or Costco were allowed to stay open since the start of the state of emergency and shelter-in-place orders were enacted, giving them a clear advantage. 

“Right now, and up to this day, our retail businesses like clothing stores have only been open for curbside pickup and delivery, while other grocery and drug stores, hardware stores and warehouse stores allow customers to shop inside,” Garcetti said. “Simply put, that status quo has put our small retail businesses at a disadvantage, pushing customers to shop online or at large warehouse chains. Now, it’s time to even that playing field, and to do it safely, to allow all retail businesses to let customers inside the shop.”

Garcetti said this next step does not yet include personal services, hair salons, nail salons, and barber shops, and they are not reopening restaurants for dine-in service yet. During a press conference Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom said directives to restart filming production will be announced later this week. He said industry leaders are looking at what grocers did as a model in terms of guidelines for safely reopening.

“We are working with the film and television industry, and chose to engage a little bit more formally,” Newsom said. “We were hoping to put out those guidelines as early as today. We want to extend them to later in the week, perhaps into the weekend because we’re working with both industry and labor, and they want to tighten up some aspects of their guidelines. That’s very encouraging, and it’s been a very positive process.”