LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles County restaurants could soon reopen for limited dine-in service, as could hair salons, with the state today approving the county's request to move deeper into California's roadmap for restarting the economy.
Los Angeles -- home to roughly half of the state's coronavirus cases and deaths -- had been one of only about a dozen California counties not to have received a "variance'' from the state allowing more types of businesses to reopen.
The variances are granted based on a list of criteria, including infection rates, hospital capacity, testing availability and ability to trace contacts of infected residents. County health officials noted this week that while case numbers and deaths continue to rise, infection and hospitalization rates have been trending downward.
With the state on Friday granting the variance, it will now be up to the county to amend its health order and provide guidelines for the resumption of dine-in service at restaurants and for hair salons to reopen.
County officials will likely address the issue during a scheduled Friday afternoon COVID-19 briefing. Other Southern California counties, including Orange, Riverside and San Diego, received variances last week, and restaurants were permitted to open there with a series of health restrictions -- such as limited capacity, required social distancing and face coverings for staff and customers.
Hair salons have also been allowed to reopen in those counties, with restrictions on capacity and services. Restrictions generally blocked the salons from offering any services that require workers to touch customers' faces.
Los Angeles County most recently revised its Health Officer Order -- originally dubbed "Safer At Home'' -- on Tuesday, clearing the way for all retailers in the city, including those inside enclosed shopping malls, to reopen for in-store shopping with restrictions on capacity and mandatory face coverings.
The revised order also allowed the reopening of offices, swap meets, flea markets and drive-in movie theaters. Houses of worship were also cleared to again hold in-person services, with limited capacity and restrictions on activities.
With that new order in place, several Southland shopping malls reopened this week, including the Citadel Outlets in Commerce and the Glendale Galleria. The Beverly Center reopened today, and Westfield Century City is set to open Saturday. Only a limited number of stores are open, and hours are limited.
The county health order -- now dubbed "Safer at Work and in the Community'' -- continues to require residents to wear cloth face coverings when interacting with people outside their own households. It also calls for continued social-distancing. Reopened businesses also must adhere to strict safety protocols, requiring face coverings, limited capacity inside stores and hand-washing and sanitizing stations.
Restaurants will also likely look dramatically different, with no shared utensils or condiments. County public health director Barbara Ferrer said again earlier this week that as more businesses reopen, residents need to take all necessary precautions when they mingle with the public.
"We do have to all go carefully, and by that I mean we all have to be diligent about doing whatever we can do to protect each other,'' she said. "But yes, I feel confident we're moving forward in a manner that's very respectful of the resources we have here and the need, in fact, for us to be on a reopening, safer-in-the-community-safer-at-work journey, but we have to be on this journey together.''
On Thursday, the county Department of Public Health announced 48 more fatalities from COVID-19, although six of those deaths were actually reported Wednesday afternoon by health officials in Long Beach. The new fatalities lifted the county's death toll to 2,241.
County health officials also announced another 1,094 confirmed cases of the illness, while Long Beach and Pasadena combined to add 86 more, bringing the countywide total to 49,860.