With some key COVID-19 numbers trending downward, LA County this week announced plans for some long-awaited re-openings. In a statement issued yesterday, the County said:
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health…in consultation with the Board of Supervisors, will revise the Health Officer Order to allow for limited in-door operations at nail salons and shopping malls, outdoor operations for cardrooms, re-opening of outside playgrounds and the school waiver program for grades TK-2.”
The various re-openings, however, are not all immediate, and do come with specific restrictions. Individual city rules may also supercede the county permissions. Here are some of the relevant dates and conditions:
- Nail Salons – October 1 – Indoor services may resume at 25% capacity. Outdoor services should continue as much as possible.
- Schools (TK-2) Waiver Program – Applications can be submitted on October 5 – Limited to 30 schools per week.
- Cardrooms – October 5 – Outdoor operations only. Food and beverages may not be served at the tables.
- Indoor Shopping Malls – October 7 – Occupancy limited to 25% capacity; all food courts and all common areas remain closed.
- Outside Playgrounds – At the discretion of cities and L.A. County Parks and Recreation – Face coverings and physical distancing are required.
- Public Health is consulting with County Counsel to determine the process and date for re-opening outdoor operations at breweries and wineries serving a meal. We anticipate this process will be completed in a week.
The state’s proposed school waiver program has been one of the things most eagerly anticipated at the county and city levels. It’s worth repeating, however, that the program is ONLY for grades TK-2, and only for certain students. And both public school districts and individual private schools will have to apply for permission to open under the program, and adhere to extensive protocols for infection control, distancing and cohort rules (e.g. no more than 12 student and two supervising adults in each classroom, and students must stay in those groups all day, for all activities). Applications are available at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.
In addition, as noted in the graphic above, schools with the highest percentages of students who qualify for free and reduced price lunches will have priority for waiver applications, and only 30 schools per week will be granted waivers.
Also, according to the LA Times, just because the County is finally opening the waiver application doesn’t mean that all schools can or will apply. And the decision to do so may be especially tricky with public school districts, especially large districts with lots of union labor, such as LAUSD. According to the Times:
“Los Angeles Unified spokeswoman Shannon Haber declined to answer questions about whether the nation’s second-largest school district would pursue waivers for any of its schools.
“Los Angeles Unified continues to work on plans for students to return to schools as soon as it’s safe and appropriate to do so,” Haber said.
Officials with the teachers union said that it remains unsafe for LAUSD to reopen schools.
“We know some of our most vulnerable students — our younger students, those with special needs and English language learners — are more acutely impacted by remote learning challenges. But we also know that it is those same students’ communities — predominantly communities of color living in poverty — that are most acutely impacted by this deadly virus,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement. “It is not easy for educators to see any student struggling. But we must let science and these realities guide our actions.”
State guidelines require schools seeking waivers to consult with labor, parent and community organizations.”
Because of such complicated negotiations, waiver applications in other parts of the state so far have been most numerous from private schools, and that is likely to remain the case in LA County as well.
Finally, it’s also important to note that while the state and county are allowing this very minimal re-opening of in-person school instruction, wider school openings will likely be prohibited for at least a few more weeks. LA County is still officially in the purple, or “widespread,” tier for COVID-19 transmission (more than 7 cases per day per 100,000 people), and state rules forbid further school openings unless and until a county has been in the red, or “substantial,” transmission tier (down to just 4-7 cases per day per 100,000 people) for at least two consecutive weeks.
The County also gave the go-ahead this week to indoor service at nail salons, with proper distancing and infection control protocols. Occupancy will be capped at 25% of normal, and face coverings must be worn at all times by both staff and customers. Also, customers can only book appointments for one service at a time, and there will be no amenities such as coffe and/or magazines.
Finally, overall, LA County COVID-19 case rates have been ticking up again recently, with more than 1,100 new cases reported in LA County again yesterday…so we may now see some slowing, rather than further progress in re-openings for a while.