LA County Maintains Restrictions Despite Mounting Pressure to Reopen

Officials to reassess later this month

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Los Angeles County is not changing its restrictions on reopening until at least later this month, despite increasing pressure from landlords, property owners and city leaders.

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Public health officials explained Tuesday that the county will wait until they can assess how the Labor Day weekend impacts the rate of coronavirus cases before considering if more sectors will reopen. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Public Health Department, said the restrictions on indoor shopping centers, bars, card rooms and family entertainment locations will remain until they can collect more of that data for the two weeks after people traveled or celebrated with large groups of people.

“The reopening decisions and the closing decisions that we make together (…) have an impact on what we see in our case numbers,” she said. “We are hopeful that we don’t see another surge like we did after July 4, but it would be foolish to start a lot of reopenings right now, only to quickly need to close down again because our numbers are moving rapidly in the wrong direction.”

Ferrer said the county can be more restrictive than the state, and it has been with indoor shopping centers and breweries.

Currently, the county is seeing more than 9 new cases per 100,000 people per day. In order to advance to the next tier in the state’s reopening plan, it would have to be lower than 7 per 100,000 for two consecutive weeks. 

“We are working closely with the Board of Supervisors to look at all of our data, particularly if we’re going to have another surge after Labor Day, before we revisit what else should be sequenced for reopening,” Ferrer said.

The discussion at the Board of Supervisors hearing came as landlords and city officials mobilized in opposition. This week, mayors from five L.A. County cities, including Bell Gardens, Gardena and Commerce, which have gambling cardrooms, pressed for the county to allow them to open for outdoor business. According to The Daily Breeze, revenue from the casinos accounts for 40-70 percent of each city’s budget.

Earlier this week, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield argued against the decision to keep indoor malls closed, according to a report by My News LA. That was a day after the owner of a small sports apparel chain and the owner of the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance filed a lawsuit against the county for giving larger outlets an advantage. Daisy Rivas, who owns the sports apparel business, said she is prepared to follow the state protocols, including limiting her capacity to 25 percent. The lawsuit argues that her stores remain closed while big box stores and department stores are permitted to open. 

Supervisor Hilda Solis said her office has been inundated with calls from small businesses, restaurant owners, breweries and cardrooms about the restrictions. Supervisor Janice Hahn said most of the calls to her office had been about breweries and cardrooms reopening. She said the board is very concerned about the public’s health, and “also extremely worried about our economy.”

“Some of our cities rely on the revenue from these card clubs, some of our cities rely on the revenue from the shopping malls, so these are tough decisions,” Hahn said.

Ferrer pointed to June 18, when bars were allowed to reopen and the county was seeing about 1,000 cases per day. 

“On July 1, a couple of weeks later, we jumped to seeing 2,000 cases per day … by the middle of that month, the county averaged more than 3,000 new cases per day.” she said. “And we know the first weekend we opened, that first Saturday, there were 500,000 people in the county that visited bars.” 

Ferrer added that open bars wasn’t the only reason for the rise in cases, but that increase was one of the steepest that the county has seen in a short period of time.

“Unfortunately, when people are eating and drinking, they’re not able to wear their face covering,” she said. “I know it’s particularly difficult for some sectors that are still closed — particularly those sectors that opened for a brief period of time before that really serious spike in cases that we saw starting in July; we’ve had to close back down some of those sectors. And I know it’s been extraordinarily frustrating, and it’s had devastating economic consequences.”