Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles County today reopened some beach parking lots and authorized retail businesses inside enclosed shopping malls to reopen with curbside pickup service only, while continuing to warn of the continued spread of the coronavirus.
The changes came as county officials braced for a holiday weekend that could again challenge residents' resolve to adhere to stay-at-home restrictions that bar large gatherings and require face coverings and social distancing when residents interact with others.
"So I'm encouraging people -- I know we are lifting restrictions in certain areas. Please be responsible," said said Kathryn Barger, chair of the county Board of Supervisors. "This is the only way we are going to move toward the next phase of opening."
The county reported another 35 deaths due to coronavirus, although five of those fatalities were announced Thursday afternoon by health officials in Pasadena and Long Beach. Long Beach reported another two deaths Friday afternoon.
The new deaths increased the county's total to 2,051.
Public health director Barbara Ferrer said 93% of the people who died had underlying health conditions, a slight increase of the 92% level of the past several weeks.
"Over 35% of us here in L.A. County, sometimes the number can be as high as 40%, have underlying health conditions," Ferrer said. "So I know sometimes folks think there's a very tiny group of people who are at an elevated risk of serious illness from COVID-19, but here in L.A. County it's one out of three of us."
Ferrer also announced another 1,072 confirmed cases of the virus, while Pasadena added 15 and Long Beach announced another 18. The new cases raised the countywide total to 43,085.
The county on Thursday reopened its 22-mile bike path that stretches from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. The path had remained closed despite beaches reopening last week for active use, in hopes of preventing large gatherings of people on the often-congested trail.
Today the county also announced the reopening of parking lots at Dockweiler State Beach, Will Rogers State Beach, Zuma Beach and Surfrider Beach, but only at partial capacity. With beaches reopening for at least partial use, issues have arisen with people flocking to the coast but being forced to find street parking in coastal neighborhoods, leading to congestion issues.
County officials warned anyone heading to the beach that face coverings are mandatory while not in the water. The active-use restriction also forbids sunbathing on the sand, meaning chairs, umbrellas, canopies and coolers are still barred. Piers, boardwalks and volleyball courts also remain off- limits.
The county today also authorized retail stores located in enclosed shopping malls to reopen for curbside merchandise pickup only. Customers are still not permitted to enter enclosed shopping malls. County officials urged shopping malls to establish clearly marked curbside pickup areas for customers to pick up goods.
Also approved today were car parades to allow for celebrations of graduations, birthdays or other occasions. The guidelines, however, require participants to be inside enclosed vehicles -- no convertibles -- and if windows are open, vehicle occupants must wear face coverings.
Large-scale parades must have a designated host and security to ensure compliance with health regulations.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner praised the change, which will allow students to celebrate their graduations.
"As we have said -- and have wanted to do all along -- we would allow those at our schools to plan celebrations which include gatherings as long as they are in accordance with guidelines from Los Angeles County health authorities," he said.
Public Health has issued the following guidance for people with mild illness during this time of increased spread:
• Stay at home whenever possible and practice social distancing -- keep at least six-feet away from others when you leave your home.
• Wash your hands with soap and water as frequently as possible for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when water is not available.
• The general public should wear non-medical face coverings when interacting with others while obtaining essential supplies and services. You should not purchase hospital-grade masks, which are in short supply and desperately needed in hospitals. People can use scarves or other fabric, suggesting that people go online for instructions on how to fashion a homemade mask.
• If you are mildly sick, stay home for at least seven days and until 72 hours after being fever and symptom free. Call your doctor if you are concerned and/or your symptoms worsen. Individuals who are elderly, have underlying health conditions or pregnant should consider contacting their providers earlier when they are sick.
Additional things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community are on the Public Health website.