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County Rise In COVID Cases Causes Worry As State Lifts More Restrictions

City and county could allow tattoo and massage parlors to open

Published on Thursday, October 22, 2020 | 9:57 am

The city and the county could amend their respective health orders to allow all personal care services, including tattoo shops and massage parlors, to open indoors with modifications, the state’s top public health official announced earlier this week.

As in past cases, local jurisdictions may set their own rules that are more restrictive, meaning personal services may remain closed in some areas.

In Los Angeles County, public health officials said they were reviewing the state recommendations and would consult with the Board of Supervisors about the timing for the additional openings. 

County health officials say there have been concerning upticks in cases in recent weeks, delaying a move to a less-restrictive tier on the state’s economic reopening roadmap.

But despite those concerns and the county’s continued spot in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s matrix, health officials said more restrictions on business operations will be lifted this week, including:

  • removal of the one-day-advance-reservation requirement for customers of wineries and craft breweries;
  •  removal of the requirement that winery customers purchase food with alcohol; and
  • authorization for family entertainment centers to reopen outdoors.

“I hope this provides much-needed relief and respite for residents who are looking for activities outside their homes,”’ County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said Wednesday. “These updates will also bring more employees back to work.”

The county is also expanding a program that allows schools to resume in-person instruction for high-need and English-learning students. That program currently allows schools to bring those students back to campus, accounting for up to 10 percent of a school’s overall enrollment. That limit is now being increased to 25 percent, Barger said, “so more students and youth can have access to their teachers and the on-site support systems that are so critical for their growth and for their education.”

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that as of this week, 986 schools are taking part in that program, with nearly 35,000 students now receiving in-person instruction and nearly 20,000 teachers and staff back on campuses.

Four school campuses this week also were approved for waivers allowing them to resume in-person instruction for students in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Ferrer said a total of 110 schools have applied for those waivers so far, and more applications are being processed by the county and state.

Barger said the changes in the county’s health order will likely be finalized by Friday. It is unclear if those businesses will be included in the Friday revision.

As she has throughout the pandemic, Ferrer noted that more businesses reopening means more interaction among residents, potentially leading to more spread of COVID-19. She implored businesses and residents to adhere to all health protocols to limit such transmission.

“We have made a great deal of progress in L.A. County since we

experienced the large surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in mid-July,” Ferrer said. “But the last couple of weeks we’ve seen some small increases in cases and test positivity rates, which are concerning as we continue to make progress on reopening schools and businesses. With more interactions between people, there’s an increased risk of transmission that can result in people becoming seriously ill and, tragically for some, passing away.”

She noted that from August through the start of September, the county was averaging fewer than 800 new cases per day.

“However, since the middle of September, we started to see the daily number of cases creep up, and this is a cause for some worry,” she said.

“Last week, the average number of cases was about 1,000 cases per day.”

She also said the county’s seven-day average positivity rate among those tested for the virus had crept slightly upward, ranging between 3.4 percent and 3.7 percent over the past month.

“Similar to our case data, this is a slight increase we will need to carefully watch,” Ferrer said.

The county on Wednesday reported 510 new cases, but Ferrer again said the number is artificially low due to continued technical problems with the reporting systems the county uses to compile testing results. Ferrer said the county hopes to have those issues resolved by the end of the week to provide more accurate data on this week’s case numbers.

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