LOS ANGELES – Citing soaring COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Los Angeles County imposed tightened health restrictions Monday, including a ban on most gatherings and strict capacity limits on most businesses, while forcing closures of playgrounds and card rooms.
But the restrictions are being met with pushback from some residents, business owners and elected officials — including the Lancaster City Council, which will hold a special meeting this Thursday to consider a “no-confidence” vote in county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer and to discuss creating a municipal health department.
The Lancaster City Council meeting will be held virtually, starting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3. The meeting will be conducted telephonically and video streamed live on Channel 28 and on the city’s website: https://www.cityoflancasterca.org/connect/public-meetings.
Lancaster city officials are considering a no-confidence vote in Barbara Ferrer — even though the county’s restrictions are technically issued by the county’s Health Officer, Dr. Muntu Davis. The council will also consider asking its staff to begin outlining the process for creating a municipal health department, much like those in Pasadena and Long Beach. View the Lancaster City Council meeting agenda here.
The city of Pasadena, which has its own health department, hasn’t fallen in line with all of the county’s health restrictions, allowing in-person dining to continue for now. Pasadena officials insist that the city is better equipped than the county to enforce health restrictions at eateries.
Los Angeles County’s new “Health Officer Order” that took effect Monday prohibits all public and private gatherings with people of multiple households, except for constitutionally protected outdoor church services and protests. It also sets occupancy limits at various businesses, while also mandating face coverings and six feet of physical distancing.
The capacity limits are:
— essential retail: 35% maximum occupancy;
— nonessential retail (includes indoor malls): 20% maximum occupancy;
— personal care services: 20% maximum occupancy;
— libraries: 20% maximum occupancy;
— fitness centers operating outdoors: 50% maximum occupancy;
— museums galleries, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens operating outdoors: 50% maximum occupancy; and
— mini-golf, batting cages, go-kart racing operating outdoors: 50% maximum occupancy.
The order allows most outdoor recreational facilities to remain open, including beaches, trails and parks. But face coverings are required. Also open are golf courses, tennis courts, pickleball, archery ranges, skate parks, bike parks and community gardens, but use is restricted to a single household at a time. Pools that serve more than one household may open only for regulated lap swimming with one person per lane. Drive-in movies/events/car parades are permitted provided occupants in each car are members of one household.
Schools operating with limited numbers of students and day camps can remain open, adhering to reopening protocols. Schools and day camps with an outbreak, defined as three cases or more over 14 days, should close for 14 days. Card rooms are closed, as well as playgrounds, except for those at child care centers and schools.
In announcing the revised order, Ferrer said in a statement, “With the recent surge of COVID-19 acros our community, we must take additional safety measures to reduce the risk of illness and death from this terrible virus and protect our health care system. These targeted measures are in effect for the next three weeks and still allow for many essential and non-essential activities where residents are always masked and distanced.”
The restrictions will remain in effect until at least Dec. 20. The county last week put an end to all in-person dining at restaurants.
On Sunday, the county reported another 5,014 confirmed cases of COVID- 19 and 16 additional deaths, bringing the county’s totals to 395,843 cases and 7,639 fatalities.
Even more concerning was the continued rise in hospitalizations, which reached 2,049 on Sunday, reaching its highest point since summer. Health officials said rising case numbers could overwhelm hospitals within two to three weeks if the spike continues.
According to county estimates released last week, every COVID-19 patient in the county is passing the virus to an average of 1.27 people — the highest transmission rate the county has seen since March, before any safety protocols such as face coverings and social distancing were in place.
Based on that transmission rate, health officials estimate one of every 145 people in the county are now infected with the virus and transmitting it to others.