Coronavirus lab testing

Microbiologist extracts COVID-19 genetic material from patient samples in the Public Health Laboratory. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health conducts Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 on March 19, 2020. 

Another 40-plus coronavirus deaths were reported in Los Angeles County today, as local shopping malls began reopening their doors thanks to loosened health restrictions and state officials considered a possible return of L.A. dine-in restaurants and hair salons.

The county Department of Public Health announced 48 more fatalities from COVID-19, although six of those deaths were actually reported Wednesday afternoon by health officials in Long Beach.

The new fatalities lifted the county's death toll to 2,241.

County health officials also announced another 1,094 confirmed cases of the illness, while Long Beach and Pasadena combined to add 86 more, bringing the countywide total to 49,860.

The new cases were announced as more businesses took advantage of relaxed health restrictions and began welcoming customers inside.

Thousands of residents weary of curbside-only shopping -- or perhaps just looking for a chance to get out of the house -- made their way to malls such as the Citadel Outlets in Commerce and the Glendale Galleria Thursday, taking advantage of the newly reopened retail centers.

Only select stores inside the malls were open as of today, and operating hours were limited. But that didn't keep the public away.

A woman shopping at the Citadel Outlets told Fox11 she was surprised at the crowd that showed up, but she felt comfortable inside thanks to capacity controls and cleaning efforts.

"I love the fact that they're sanitizing after every customer," she said.

The loosening of COVID-19 restrictions was expressed clearly by the county, which changed the name of its health officer order from "Safer at Home" to "Safer at Work and in the Community."

The order, however, continues to require residents to wear cloth face coverings when interacting with people outside their own households. It also calls for continued social-distancing. Reopened businesses also must adhere to strict safety protocols, requiring face coverings, limited capacity inside stores and hand-washing and -sanitizing stations.

Other Southland shopping malls are expected to reopen over the coming days. The Beverly Center will reopen Friday, and Westfield Century City will open Saturday.

Los Angeles County officials this week submitted a request to the state for a local "variance," which would allow the county to move deeper into California's "roadmap" for restarting the economy. Most notably, the variance would allow the county to authorize the reopening of hair salons and restaurants for dine-in service.

It was not immediately clear how long it will take the state to review the county's application for the variance.

Guidance

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.  You should not purchase hospital-grade masks. 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.

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