L.A. County Could See All Businesses, Economy Open as Early as July 4

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The July 4 holiday could be a return to relative normalcy for the millions of residents in California's largest county as leaders announce a target date to end strict safer-at-home orders.

Los Angeles County has a new target date in mind for a "safe reopening" of all businesses and the economy: July 4. 

The date was revealed Tuesday in a press release issued by Board of Supervisors chair Kathryn Barger following the second meeting of the Los Angeles County Economic Resiliency Task Force, a group comprised of the Board of Supervisors and leaders from different industries throughout the county.

By July 4, there could be "full or staged" reopening of all businesses such as retail, restaurants and malls, areas of the economy that have been hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear where movie theaters fall in reopening, though The Hollywood Reporter reached out to Barger for comment. As part of Tuesday's meeting, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. president Bill Allen said that the county has seen 1 million unemployment claims filed and that 75 percent of projected job losses are from individuals who make less than $50,000 per year in areas such as restaurants and retail companies. 

“The economic and sociological impacts created by the COVID-19 shutdown have hurt our vulnerable populations the most,” Barger said. “The County, in partnership with our Task Force members and key stakeholders, is prepared to move forward with recommendations that ensure the safety and well-being of employees and customers while safeguarding public health.”

Shortly after Barger issued her statement, leaders including L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer and L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis gathered for the county's daily coronavirus press briefing. Understandably, the July 4 target date proved to be the dominant discussion point. Ferrer confirmed that "we're all aiming for that date" but in order to get there safely, "we have to do a lot of things right." She said an ultimate decision would be made based on "the data," something she's leaned on for weeks in reference to the latest case counts, death rates, hospital availability and testing/tracing efforts. 

"It's always helpful for us to have a target date in mind," Ferrer said. "If we all do our part, that’s certainly a goal we can reach."

News of a potential July 4 reopening came on the same day that Ferrer reported an additional COVID-19-related 76 deaths for a total of 1,913 in the county to date. She also reported 1,183 newly diagnosed positive cases for a countywide total of 39,573 thus far. Regarding the high number of new cases, Ferrer once again reminded the media that officials "typically see an increase on Tuesday and Wednesday" as they are catching up on a backlog from the weekend, a period when many labs are closed and do not report results. As of Tuesday, reportedly 1,549 people are in the hospital with COVID-19 illness. 

L.A. County is currently in phase two of its reopening plan, a staged effort that now allows for "low-risk" retail and manufacturing to be open for business for curbside or door-front pickup and delivery. The state of California — as allowed by Gov. Gavin Newsom — is in a much more advanced recovery plan as many of its counties meet criteria for more widespread reopenings. However, L.A. County, the state's most populated area, has long been the epicenter of the epidemic, recording close to half the deaths and positive cases in California. Movie theaters, gyms, barbershops and hair and nail salons are all part of phase three and, theoretically, could all be open by July 4 under this new goal. 

"Reopening has proven to be a lot harder than we may have envisioned," Ferrer explained. "Many of us may be experiencing fear, frustration, anxiety and depression. I know this is all very difficult."

She once again doubled down on personal responsibility for being the best way to prevent further infections in the absence of a vaccine or herd immunity. "All we do have is each other, and each of us has the power to protect other people," said Ferrer, reminding residents to continue to wear cloth face coverings and keep six feet apart from others while in public or interacting with others.

Solis said that while they are moving closer to the goal of reopening on July 4, she, and other officials, remain concerned that some residents are not adhering to physical distancing guidelines amid reports of crowded beaches, underground parties and other mass gatherings. 

"It's going to be a slow process," added Solis. "I have to tell you that our aspiration is that we'd like to reopen sooner than later. We have to make sure that everyone is adhering to the public health order. I have a great deal of concern that some people are not listening to the message." 

Asked by a reporter about "battle fatigue," meaning the feeling that some may be having of staying isolated and on alert for so long, Ferrer said that sounds about right. 

"It's accurate. Everyone is fatigued. We all feel like enough is enough. I wish the virus said 'enough is enough' and I also wish it just went away. We wish this wasn't going on so long, and why is reopening so hard?" she questioned. "We’re going to pay attention to the data and pay attention to the science. It's going to take all of us working together to do this quicker rather than slower."