As Los Angeles County’s coronavirus numbers continue to fall and local business activity springs back to life, officials announced a handful of modifications to the county’s health order Monday that went into effect over the weekend.
Breweries, distilleries and wineries may now reopen for indoor service if food is provided, with attendance limited to 25% of capacity, County Pubic Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
Those that do not provide a meal may open for outdoor service only with certain restrictions, including reservations and 90-minute time limits for all guests. Guests must be seated at tables before they place their order, and are not permitted to stand or congregate with others, and service for on-site consumption must close by 8 p.m.
Also, limited-service businesses — such as bank and credit union branches, check cashing services, tax preparation, auto repair and dry cleaners — are permitted to conduct indoor operations at 50% of capacity. Business offices can conduct essential indoor operations at 50% of capacity. For mental health, support groups and spiritual counseling, the number of in-person participants increases from 10 to 12.
The county is aligning with the state to allow for indoor sports activities for youth and adult recreational leagues, including training, conditioning, contact practice and competition. Those indoor activities must be limited to 10% of occupancy, and observers are not permitted. Players, coaches and staff must undergo regular COVID-19 testing. And leagues must file a site-specific return-to-play plan with the health department 14 days prior to the resumption of indoor activity.
Officials also reported 516 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional fatalities, though Monday’s relatively low numbers may reflect reporting delays over the weekend. Monday’s numbers brought the county’s totals to 1,214,178 cases and 22,806 deaths since the pandemic began, according to the county health department. (View the latest detailed report by city and demographics here.)
The number of county residents hospitalized with the coronavirus continued to decline, dropping from 750 Sunday to 713, with the number of those patients in intensive care declining from 191 to 181, according to state figures. However, officials noted a rise in transmission rate based on hospitalization data, with a rate of .93 at the beginning of March, higher than the .87 recorded one week earlier. “Because the uncertainty in the estimated transmission number R includes values both below and above 1, it is uncertain if the number of hospitalizations will continue to decrease, be stable, or start to increase,” the department said.
“Spring officially began this past weekend. Like so many of you, I am eagerly awaiting warmer weather and clearer skies,” Ferrer said. “We have a beautiful county, and I encourage you all to enjoy everything it has to offer while remaining masked and physically distanced. For recreational travelers and residents coming to L.A. County, please note, you are required to self-quarantine for 10 days after you return from out of state or out of country travel to protect our community from inadvertent transmission of the virus from travelers.”
Ferrer also said Monday that the county was entering into a memorandum of understanding with the state and Blue Shield for the giant health insurance company to oversee COVID-19 vaccination efforts. She stressed that the county’s vaccination providers and overall distribution strategy would remain the same, but would now be coordinated with Blue Shield, allowing for more data dashboards among other improvements.
Ferrer added that public schools in the county would be permitted to align with the state’s updated guidelines that call for 3 feet of distance between student desks, not the 6 feet previously called for. Individual districts can choose to retain the 6-feet standard, though. Ferrer said county officials saw a slight decrease last week in transmission of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the United Kingdom. She said vaccination efforts are holding at skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities, and she was confident that even if new variants of the virus began spreading faster, those facilities would not see outbreaks close to the level they saw last spring.
On the vaccination front, officials said doses at county-run sites would be limited to second doses this week due to supply shortages. The county crossed the milestone of administering 3 million doses last week, and its science officer said planning is under way for an anticipated dramatic increase in vaccine supply in hopes of eventually doling out 1 million doses per week. The county currently has the capability of administering about 630,000 doses per week, but due to limited supply, only about 300,000 to 350,000 doses are actually being administered per week.
The county moved into the red tier of the state’s four-tier COVID-19 reopening framework last week along with the rest of the Southland, allowing for increased business activity, including the limited reopening of movie theaters.
Theme parks can reopen with limited attendance beginning April 1.