Restrictions in LA County Set to Ease Further by Early April

L.A. could see restrictions ease within two weeks, opening up bars and cardrooms and changing guidelines for remote work

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Los Angeles County is on track to see more restrictions lifted or eased in early April if it continues to see declining rates of coronavirus cases, officials said Tuesday.

The region is starting to meet the threshold to move to the less-restrictive orange tier beginning as early as the week of April 5th, public health officials said. 

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“It’s evident that these vaccines are working,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said on Tuesday during a virtual press conference, discussing sharp declines in case rates. 

The number of daily hospitalizations has returned to pre-surge levels, as there were 713 people with COVID-19 hospitalized in L.A. County as of Tuesday. Daily hospitalizations had been above 1,000 every day from November 23 to March 13.

The move would result in an update to work-from-home guidelines, with the county changing its recommendation to allow for a return to the office, albeit with modifications and with the county still encouraging remote work. Wineries and breweries that don’t serve food could open indoor operations for the first time with 25 percent capacity limits. Bars would be able to open for outdoor service, and cardrooms would also be able to open indoor operations at 25 percent capacity.

Shopping centers would be able to operate with full capacity; restaurants could increase from 25 percent to 50 percent; and gyms could jump from 10 percent to 25 percent. Movie theaters, which spent most of the past 12 months closed, would be able to expand from 25 percent capacity to 50 percent capacity up to a maximum of 200 people

Ferrer warned that officials are concerned about potential risks that would stall progress, including an increase in variants of coronavirus, “sloppy” reopenings, and unsafe actions during the March Madness season, or people on spring break and spring holidays. Ferrer said the county needs to stay in the red tier, which it entered on March 15, for three full weeks and also maintain the qualifying threshold rates for another week to advance.

“I don’t want to presume we’re automatically moving,” she said. “We are committed to move forward. We are excited to stay on a recovery journey. But we have to do it in a way that doesn’t jeopardize safety.”

The county said Tuesday that health inspectors visited 1,224 businesses from March 15 to March 21, including restaurants, markets, hair salons and barbershops, hotels and shopping malls to check compliance with regulations. And they found that, while the majority of businesses were in compliance, “there is significant room for improvement.” Of the businesses they checked, inspectors found 56 percent of hotels, and 80 percent of restaurants completed and posted their protocols, and 86 percent of restaurants and 87 percent of markets were in compliance with physical distancing.

On Tuesday, public health officials confirmed 66 new deaths and 490 new cases of COVID-19. To date, the county has seen more than 1.2 million positive cases of COVID-19, and a total of 22,871 deaths.