LA County Targets July 4 for Full Reopening of Economy

Visitors take pictures near the cement inscription of actor Tom Hanks, lower left, in the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theatre in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles County officials said Tuesday they’re aiming to reopen the local economy by July 4, nearly four months after stay-at-home orders took effect.

The announcement came as officials also revealed 76 county residents died from the Covid-19 virus in the last 24 hours.

LA County’s death toll continues to climb, outpaced only by the staggering number of job losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the stay-at-home order that brought the global economy to a screeching halt. In total, 1,913 people are dead and 39,573 are infected according to LA County’s Public Health director Barbara Ferrer.

Earlier this month, LA County relaxed its health order to allow for additional businesses to reopen with modified conditions, but in-store shopping at retail businesses remains unavailable.

Revenue from tourism, service and hospitality have been hit hardest since the stay-at-home order was put in place March 19. Economic forecasts are grim, with the county forecasting a $2 billion shortfall by next year. The city of Los Angeles reported a 77% drop in hotel taxes in April.

Still, without a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 there are few options outside of social distancing and cloth face masks to slow the spread of the virus.

LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced the July 4 target date to safely reopen the economy. The decision was made along with an economic task force formed in response to the pandemic made up of business owners, union representatives and city officials.

“I understand the urgency to reopen and know many of the experts the county has assembled for this task force have been working hard to develop safe and efficient plans to revitalize their sectors as early as next month,” said Barger in a statement.

When asked if health officials were consulted on the July 4 date, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “The reality is we are going to really aim together to get there as quickly as possible, but we’re going to pay attention to the data and we’re going to pay attention to the science.”

More than 1 million LA County residents have filed unemployment claims since the start of the pandemic, according to a report from Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation.

“I think reopening may have proven a lot harder than we may have envisioned as we are all making major adjustments to our businesses and day to day lives — that we’d thought we’d never need to make — many of us may be experiencing fear, frustration, anxiety and depression,” Ferrer said. “I know this is all very difficult.”

Precautions aside, county health officials noted obvious displays of people not following social distancing guidelines. That includes large gatherings and other types of parties, said Ferrer.

In total, 358,000 LA County residents have been tested for the novel coronavirus and 9% have tested positive.

Nearly 400 miles to the north, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors responded to a recent spike in Covid-19 cases at single-room occupancy (SRO) buildings by passing legislation requiring hotel rooms be made available to SRO residents who test positive for Covid-19 so they can quarantine in isolation.

San Francisco has about 500 single-room occupancy buildings which house about 19,000 mostly low-income residents. SROs have been identified as places where the virus can spread rapidly because residents share bathrooms, kitchens and other common spaces. Many seniors and people with serious health conditions also tend to live in SRO units, especially in the city’s Chinatown neighborhood.

The legislation also requires testing and contact tracing at SRO buildings where a resident has tested positive. Additionally, it mandates a telephone hotline to answer SRO residents’ questions about health screenings, testing and access to solitary quarantine rooms.

In a separate ordinance passed Tuesday, the city barred landlords from evicting SRO tenants or charging them late fees and penalties for not paying rent during the pandemic. The ordinance also calls for setting up a relief fund to help struggling SRO tenants pay rent.

The board was scheduled to vote on another proposal that would allow the city to set up temporary camps for homeless people at city parks during the pandemic. Each site would be required to provide adequate distance between tents, toilets, handwashing stations, sanitation, and 24/7 staffing. That proposal was shelved Monday after the city’s Parks and Recreation and Real Estate Departments agreed to provide a list of potential sites to the Board of Supervisors by June 2.

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