Los Angeles County officials on Tuesday will discuss the possible reopening of indoor shopping malls, hair salons and barbershops, with new state guidelines allowing such operations to resume with limitations to lower the risk of coronavirus spread.
The discussion will be held days ahead of the Labor Day weekend, amid concerns the holiday will lead to a repeat of coronavirus case spikes that followed Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
The county today announced another 16 deaths due to the coronavirus, raising the countywide total to 5,784. Another 1,022 cases were also reported, raising the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 241,768.
A total of 1,043 people were hospitalized due to the virus as of today.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said the full board will meet with public health director Barbara Ferrer on Tuesday to discuss possible business openings under the state's new four-tier virus-tracking guidelines.
"Our board will be discussing with Dr. Ferrer tomorrow the protocol moving forward, recognizing the state has allowed us to open and we want to do it in a very thoughtful process," Barger said. "So tomorrow (Tuesday) we will be discussing it and make announcements hopefully by early afternoon."
Under the new state guidelines, shopping malls can reopen with restrictions such as a 25% capacity limit and requiring common areas and food courts to remain closed. The guidelines also permit the reopening of indoor hair salons and barbershops, also with modifications.
But while such businesses began reopening in other counties today, Los Angeles County did not immediately revise its local health order, so those businesses were forced to remain closed. Local jurisdictions are authorized to enact restrictions more stringent than the state.
County health officials have been hesitant to move too quickly with new business reopenings, fearing a repeat of COVID-19 increases that followed earlier lifting of restrictions.
It wasn't immediately clear if the looming Labor Day weekend might impact the county's decision.
During the county's weekly coronavirus media briefing today, county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis delivered the first in what is likely to be a week of pleas for residents to adhere to health precautions over the holiday.
"We need to continue to forego our traditional holiday traditions," Davis said. "We know for sure that our holiday gatherings and parties can result in increases in transmissions, hospitalizations and deaths. The ability for us to reopen more fully relies on everyone doing their part, being smart of their choices and reducing their risk of exposure to COVID-19 every day."
Asked if the county might consider a more drastic step for the weekend, such as closing the beaches, Davis said only that the county would "continue to watch our data to see what it looks like and see if there's any increased risk."
He noted that the weather is expected to be hot over the weekend, and he urged people to stick to the basic infection-control procedures.
"First, only gather with members of your household this holiday weekend," Davis said. "If you're outside of your home and around others, please wear a face covering."