L.A. County Public Health Director Issues New Order Allowing for More Retail to Reopen

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The new order comes as the county has recorded another 47 deaths due to COVID-19 over the past 24 hours for a total of 1,659 during the pandemic.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer on Wednesday issued a new health officer order allowing for “lower-risk businesses,” including more retailers, to open for curbside or door side pickup and delivery. The open-ended order, which has no specific end date and could later be modified, also allows for the reopening of manufacturing and logistics companies that support those retail shops.

It does not include retailers in indoor malls and shopping centers. Open-air malls and shopping centers can open, but the health officer order does not allow for customers to enter such businesses. Like the last wave of businesses that were allowed to open, all must reopen with physical distancing guidelines in place, posted protocol checklists, cloth face coverings required for staff and guests and hand washing and hand sanitizing stations must be accessible and available for all.

Ferrer, who made the announcement during the county’s daily COVID-19 press briefing, said the new mandate is still dubbed a “safer-at-home” health officer order in order to emphasize “that all of us are still more protected when we remain safe at home.” 

She kicked off the briefing acknowledging reports from Tuesday that said she would be extending an order through July, something she said she's not ready to do. 

"As I’ve said from beginning, this will be a slow journey," Ferrer added before explaining that modifications and openings will be done on a gradual basis. "This will be our new foreseeable normal in the future. ... We are reopening in stages, so we can reopen safely based on the intensity of contact and ability to modify the risk of transmission in these spaces and places."  

Along with news of eased restrictions in Los Angeles County, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday evening that all residents, except for small children and those with certain disabilities, are required to wear face-coverings outside. The order tightens restrictions already in place as Angelenos are required to wear masks in businesses and on public transportation.

"Bring your mask with you whenever you leave your home," Garcetti said. "That will help us get more freedoms."

Ferrer on Wednesday also announced 47 additional COVID-19-related deaths occurred over the past 24 hours for a total of 1,659 in the county during the pandemic. Of the new fatalities, 33 were over the age of 65 and all but three individuals faced underlying health conditions. Nine individuals were between the ages of 41-65 and all but one had underlying health conditions.

Ferrer pointed out that since April 13 — when she reported 363 total deaths — L.A. County has lost 1,300 residents to COVID-19: “As you can imagine, with this significant number, there are so many people across our community experiencing the sorrow of losing a loved one to COVID-19. We want to extend heartfelt wishes for peace and healing during this time of grief.”

There also have been 1,264 newly diagnosed positive cases recorded in L.A. County over the past 24 hours, a number Ferrer said is high “partly due” to the lag time from labs that were closed over the weekend and a delay in labs reporting results to the Department of Public Health. The total number of cases in the county has reached 34,428, including 984 in Long Beach and 593 in Pasadena.  

The news comes a day after a confusing swirl that began when comments from Ferrer surfaced in a Los Angeles Times story about the county's Board of Supervisors meeting. In the meeting, Ferrer reportedly said that strict safer-at-home orders would “with all certainty” be extended for the next three months. However, hours later, Ferrer and Board of Supervisors chair Kathryn Barger both issued statements clarifying the comments. 

Barger acknowledged that the comments caused "great concern by the public," and she said that restrictions will be eased gradually over the new few months: "I am eager to reopen L.A. County as soon as it's safe to do so, in collaboration with our health experts, community leaders, businesses and residents, with best practices in place to ensure our overall health and well-being." 

For her part, Ferrer also confirmed that orders will remain in place over the next few months, and restrictions will be eased under a previously announced five-stage "Roadmap to Recovery" plan. “We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way — one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place," she said in the statement. "We’re counting on the public’s continued compliance with the orders to enable us to relax restrictions, and we are committed to making sure that L.A. County is in the best position to provide its 10 million residents with the highest level of wellness possible as we progressively get back to normal.”

"Normal" has been sidelined since mid-March, when the pandemic led to widespread shutdowns across the city and state, effectively closing non-essential businesses and canceling concerts, live theater, sporting events and gatherings of any size. This past week, however, has seen the first wave of businesses reopening across California under phase two of the state's COVID-19 recovery. In L.A. County, florists, golf courses, retail, sporting goods stores, car dealerships, bookstores and other small businesses started up customer service once again with curbside pickup only.

On Wednesday, L.A. County eased restrictions at beaches, opening up the coastline for surfing, swimming, kayaking, walking and running, while gathering, sitting, sunbathing, biking, volleyball and picnicking are still prohibited

May 13, 6:50 p.m. Updated to include Garcetti statement.