Businesses such as gyms, restaurants, movie theaters and more may soon be able to expand their limited capacities.
By Cassandra Nava, Online Editor
Diners eat outside of Sharky's Woodfired Mexican Grill on Burbank Blvd., on Nov. 8, 2020. Indoor dining is slated to return for the first time in months. (Photo by Margarita Garushyan/The Valley Star)
Los Angeles County is looking to reopen businesses and ease restrictions as early as Monday, if the county advances to the red tier.
The county’s official reopening depends on if it can administer its goal of two million vaccines to some of the most vulnerable communities by Friday, March 12. Under the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” framework, there is a vaccine equity metric that explains how the state will vaccinate those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Black, Latino and Native American communities have had higher rates of infections and deaths compared to their white counterparts, according to data from the CDC. Counties must administer the necessary amount of vaccines to these communities in order to advance to a less restrictive tier.
According to NBC Los Angeles, “As of Wednesday, the state had administered 1,926,968 doses in hard-hit communities, and [Gov. Gavin] Newsom said the two million mark will be reached by Friday.”
The county must also carefully follow the state’s four tier system: purple indicates widespread cases and positivity, red is substantial, orange is moderate and yellow is minimal. In advancing from the purple to red tier, there must be an average of four to seven new cases every week per every 100 thousand cases with five to eight percent of those tests being positive, according to the state’s official COVID-19 site. If vaccine rates continue to climb and infection rates continue at this pace, reopenings could occur as early as Monday, March 15, to as late as Wednesday, March 17.
“We plan to move into the red tier very soon,” said Barbara Ferrer, public health director for the Los Angeles County Health Agency in an article in the LA Times. “And that allows for more reopenings and permitted activities in LA County.”
Moving to the red tier will allow for more non-essential businesses to reopen indoors with limitations, with masks and social distancing still in place. According to the county’s public health website, museums, zoos and aquariums will be able to open indoors at 25 percent capacity. Gyms, fitness centers, yoga and dance studios can open indoors at 10 percent capacity. Movie theaters will be able to open indoors at 25 percent capacity with (group or individual) reserved seating, and at least a six-foot distance from any other groups or individuals.
These changes would permit restaurants to allow indoor dining for the first time since the brief reopening of bars and restaurants in June of last year.
“Restaurants can open indoors at 25 percent max capacity under the following conditions,” according to the county’s public health website, “eight-feet distancing between tables; one household per table with a limit of six people; the HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] system is in good working order and has been evaluated; and to the maximum extent possible ventilation has been increased.”
Retail businesses will see the highest percentage of capacity at 50 percent. Indoor shopping malls are included in this category, but food courts must stay at 25 percent capacity.
There is also a possibility for indoor personal gatherings. For the unvaccinated, private gatherings can occur with up to three separate households, but everyone must wear masks and abide by social distancing rules, according to the county’s public health department website. Fully vaccinated individuals can congregate indoors with up to one other unvaccinated household, with no masks or social distancing required, according to the CDC.
In President Joe Biden’s speech on March 11, 2021 — which commemorated one year since the beginning of the pandemic — he stated that the deaths caused by COVID-19 have exceeded World War Ⅰ, World War Ⅱ, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined. The death toll in America is currently at 530,821 according to John Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center.
“After one full year, there is hope and light for better days ahead if we all do our part,” said Biden about vaccination promises. “This country will be vaccinated soon. Our economy will be on the mend, our kids will be back in school.”