County blocks business reopenings until October

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The county will not authorize any more business reopenings until at least the end of the month so officials can determine if the recent Labor Day weekend will cause the same spike in COVID-19 cases seen after Fourth of July and Memorial Day, the county’s public health director said Sept. 14.

But while no more businesses will be allowed to immediately reopen, some schools are moving ahead with plans to offer in-person learning for small groups of students.

Earlier this month, the county agreed to allow in-person instruction for some students in kindergarten through 12th grade, but only for small groups of students with individualized learning plans, students requiring instruction for English as a second language and students needing other “specialized in-school services.”

County public health director Barbara Ferrer said that 59 schools have submitted plans to offer such in-person instruction, and about half of them could be open as early as Sept. 21. She said public health officials would be working with each school to ensure they are meeting all required safety protocols. All other schools remain closed for in-person learning throughout the county due to the virus.

A group of elected officials from Bell Gardens, Commerce, Gardena and Hawaiian Gardens held a news conference Sept. 14 calling for the reopening of outdoor activity at card rooms, with some officials saying the cities’ budgets rely heavily on the income they generate. The state’s coronavirus guidelines allow such operations, but Los Angeles County has not authorized them.

Operators of small craft breweries have been making a similar push to reopen for outdoor service, saying they can’t survive solely on to-go sales.

Ferrer said she respects that the county has maintained tougher rules than the state in some instances, but said those restrictions won’t be changing for a few weeks.

We’ve made a decision with our board that we’re going to hold steady until the end of September, when we are going to be looking at what the data is that we’ve seen after the Labor Day weekend,” Ferrer said. “We’ve had significant spikes in cases after the holidays, and that has resulted in us needing to sort of take some steps backward. We want to avoid doing that again so we’re going to wait a couple weeks, look at our data, review it with our board. … And we will be getting back to everyone toward the end of the month.”

Since the virus has a two-week incubation period, spikes in possible new cases from increased public exposure over Labor Day weekend would not be reflected in case data for about 14 days.

The county reported 24 more coronavirus-related deaths Sept. 24, bringing the countywide total since the start of the pandemic to 6,231. The county also announced 733 new cases, pushing the overall total to 254,656.

Ferrer noted that Monday case numbers are typically lower than usual due to delays in reporting of results over the weekend and more limited availability of testing.

A total of 775 people were hospitalized due to the virus as of Sept. 14.

Ferrer acknowledged the overwhelming public desire to lift health restrictions, but warned that doing so prematurely could have deadly results, as seen in the weeks following the Fourth of July holiday and accompanying business reopenings that were later rescinded.

“So many have taken and continue to take action to protect themselves and, just as importantly, to protect other people,” she said. “This pandemic is frustrating and heartbreaking, and not the least of it is that we desperately want to go back to living our lives the way they were before. And unfortunately as we’ve already experienced, doing so creates illness and devastation for so many, including people who are very vulnerable.”

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