By Sue Favor
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — Local businesses are bracing for new COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that are set to take effect Nov. 20.
Los Angeles County health officials announced a series of curfews and restrictions for non-essential businesses Nov. 17 that will limit hours of operation and occupational capacity, and that will mandate face masks. The measures are in response to a rise in cases that has doubled since the first of the month, and caused hospitalizations to rise from 900 to 1,000 per day.
For non-essential businesses that are allowed to operate indoors, like retail stores and offices, capacity will be limited to 25% of maximum occupancy. The number of patrons allowed at outdoor restaurants, cardrooms and casinos and outdoor sports facilities, including miniature golf, will be capped at 50% maximum capacity.
Restaurants, bars and other non-essential businesses must be closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Gatherings are allowed outdoors only, and must include no more than 15 people, from a maximum three households.
Though the order stopped short of a shelter-in-place mandate that the state instituted in the initial stages of the pandemic last March, another could be on the way.
The county said that if the five-day case average becomes 4,000 or more, or the daily hospitalization rate reaches 1,750, restaurants and bars will close and offer take-out only. If the case average becomes 4,500 or daily hospitalizations are 2,000 or more, a “Safer at Home order” will be instituted for at least three weeks. During that time only essential workers and those securing essential services will be allowed to leave their homes.
Only essential workers would be allowed to be away from home from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
For the dozens of vendors at the Slauson Super Mall, at Slauson and Western avenues, the new restrictions will be another stressor in what has been a challenging year. The popular shopping center was closed from March through May, and reopened with limited capacity, and for shortened hours, in June. When the county rolled back reopening in July, the mall closed again for two months. In September stores reopened outside, in the parking lot, and returned indoors in October.
“Really, nobody wants to even think about it curfew or lockdown,” said Daniel Safizadeh, general manager of the mall. “Our vendors are really upset about this.”
The county’s order came just a day after Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti delivered a passionate address in which he implored residents to “step up” and take extra precautions to stem the spread of the virus.
“The virus is causing more people in more places to get sick than at anytime since the early days of this crisis,” Garcetti said. “It’s time to turn the surge around. We’ve done this before, Angelenos, and we will do it again.”
Garcetti announced that a new testing center will open in the San Fernando Valley next week. He advised residents not to travel, and to stay at home as much as possible for at least three weeks; he also called on residents to stop hosting casual gatherings; and he encouraged vigilant social distancing and mask-wearing.
“If we don’t make these decisions now, we will most certainly have to shut things down again,” he warned.
Essential businesses will also be affected by the new restrictions, but in different ways.
Terry Duplessis, co-owner of Sparkle Laundry in South L.A., said there has been about a 10% dropoff in business since the pandemic first took hold.
“But overall, it’s been business as usual. We just make sure we enforce the wearing of masks,” Duplessis said. “People have changed their habits here. Now they put clothes in the washer and go out to their cars and wait. They come back in, put the load in the dryer, and then go back out to the car.”
Duplessis said the nationwide coin shortage was a challenge, but he is about to solve that issue by installing washers that allow customers to pay with a phone app.
“We’re going to continue to hang in there,” he said.
Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.