Over the last couple of weeks, both national and local news focus shifted from the COVID-19 crisis to the George Floyd killing, the subsequent massive protests, and what may finally be a serious re-thinking of race, policing and more. And while all those things were happening, other news – like the pesky pandemic – kind of faded into the background.
But now, as high-energy protests begin to evolve toward more long-term reflection and policy discussions, the daily news seems to be shifting back to COVID-19…and not so much the disease itself as the re-opening of businesses and an enthusiastic return to a more “normal” way of life.
In his latest re-opening briefing, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti announced yesterday that “In alignment with the County of L.A., gyms and fitness centers, museums, galleries, hotels for leisure and day camps and their pools within the City of L.A. may reopen Friday. Film, TV and music production can resume. Stadiums and arenas can resume without spectators.”
But while we’re thrilled to see local restaurants and retailers re-opening their doors, it’s also worth remembering the reason they closed in the first place…and the reason they’re re-opening with strict new policies in place for social distancing: COVID-19 is still very much with us. Which is why Garcetti’s announcement also said:
“Every business that is reopening is required to implement the County’s detailed public health protocols. Physical distancing and wearing face coverings will be required. Protocols and guidelines can be found at Coronavirus.LACity.org/Business.
There are still many types of businesses and activities that will remain closed: nail salons, tattoo shops, bars and wineries, movie theaters, concert halls, arcades and bowling alleys. All gatherings and parties, inside or outside, are still not allowed.”
So we’re definitely not out of the woods where the pandemic is concerned.
In fact, although we’re gradually developing new methods for slowing the spread of the disease, and hoping the social distancing techniques we’ve learned so far will be effective, COVID-19 is still spreading.
As you can see in the LA County COVID-19 Dashboard graph below, Los Angeles hit an all-time high of new cases reported on May 26 (just a little over two weeks ago), and daily reports of new cases (the light blue bars) have remained fairly high since then. (Also, don’t be fooled by the lower blue bars at the far right of the graph – as the chart explains, the bars are shorter in that gray area because data for that period is still incomplete. It doesn’t necessarily indicate an actual drop in new cases.)
In fact, many experts surmise that after two weeks of massive protest activity in many cities, including Los Angeles, we may be poised for new peaks even higher than the ones we saw in May.
And all of California is pretty much in the same boat. The website EndCoronavirus.org divides states into those that are “Beating COVID-19,” those that are “Nearly There,” and those that still “Need to Take Action.” California is definitely still in the latter group, with an overall curve not only still high, but also still hovering around peak levels.
At yesterday’s daily LA County press briefing on COVID-19, however, LA County Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted that while case and death counts are still climbing, officials are also looking at hospitalizations, which have declined a bit recently. “A month ago, we were hovering at about 1,800 people in the hospital every day,” said Ferrer. “Today, and for most of this week, we’ve been about…1,450 people in the hospital every day.”
That’s definitely good news.
But as businesses and other venues begin to re-open, we should all keep an eye on the numbers — especially as both case counts and hospitalizations do seem to be rising in other parts of the country that lead the way in re-opening (see here and here).
Please keep in mind as you return to your favorite restaurants, head to a busy beach, make haircut appointments, and possibly even return to Disneyland, that even though we got distracted for a few weeks, even though we’re all tired of the Safer at Home orders, and even though businesses are re-opening…it’s still not business as usual. The virus is still with us, and it still has the potential to spread quickly. (Also, we still won’t know for another week or two if all the demonstrations accelerated that spread locally.)
Bottom line is we are all still Safer at Home…and when we don’t stay home, we still need to wear face coverings, maintain social distance, and wash our hands well and frequently.
For more information on what’s allowed to re-open and how, as well as lots of other COVID-19-related information, see the LA County Department of Health’s website at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/guidances.htm
Notes on the neighborhoods above, as defined by LA County (see map here):
* Country Club Park, as defined by LA County, also includes most of Fremont Place, Windsor Village and Wilshire Park.
** LA County’s boundaries for Hancock Park also include most of Windsor Square, except the area bounded by Wilshire Blvd., S. Wilton Pl., W. Third St. and S. Western Ave., which is part of Wilshire Center.
*** The Melrose community, as defined by LA County, is bounded roughly, with some deviations, by Beverly Blvd., Normandie Ave., Santa Monica Blvd., and La Cienega Blvd. (so this also includes much of what we know as the Larchmont and South Hollywood residential areas).