LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Calif. — Los Angeles County residents will likely find themselves under some type of "Safer At Home" restrictions for another three months, barring a major change in the fight against the coronavirus, the county's public health director said Tuesday.
Speaking to the Board of Supervisors during a debate on extending an eviction moratorium, Barbara Ferrer, director of the Department of Public Health, said some form of health restrictions will most likely remain in place "for the next three months" unless there is a major change in the fight against COVID-19.
"There's now no way, unless there was a dramatic change in ... this virus and the tools that we have at hand to actually fight against this virus, there's no way that we could in fact see us not needing to continue with a set of restrictions," Ferrer said.
Such changes would include a widely available and reliable vaccine, at- home daily testing for COVID-19 and treatment for the infection.
The countywide public health order mandating business closures and calling on residents to remain at home as much as possible, practice social distancing and wear face coverings when interacting with others is set to expire Friday. But Ferrer said Monday that an updated health order will be announced during the county's normal coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. Exactly what that order will say was not revealed.
Ferrer and other county health officials have been frank in recent weeks that social distancing and face coverings will be the "new normal," likely for months to come, as efforts continue to slow the spread of the virus.
"It's an unfortunate part of this pandemic is that it's so long- lasting," Ferrer said.
Despite that warning, the county last week began loosening its stay-at- home restrictions last week, allowing hiking trails and golf courses to reopen. Some retail businesses -- toy stores, sporting goods stores, clothing stores, music shops and florists -- were also allowed to reopen with curbside pickup only. Car dealers were also permitted to reopen, as long as they adhere to sanitation and social distancing mandates.
Los Angeles County beaches are scheduled to reopen for active use only on Wednesday.
Ferrer indicated during Tuesday's board meeting that more openings could be done on a much slower basis.
"I do think recovery will be monthslong based on the tools we have at hand today," Ferrer said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that the state was again loosening its statewide umbrella health order, and give individual counties the authority to allow shopping malls, strip malls and outlet malls to reopen with curbside pickup. The state modification would also allow counties to authorize the reopening of some offices, if workers are unable to work remotely.
Newsom said modifications were also being made to accommodate services such as car washes, pet groomers and dog walkers. He noted that changing the statewide order doesn't automatically mean such businesses will be allowed to reopen, with the specific authority delegated to individual counties based on their individual circumstances.
"The statewide order affords the opportunity for local government to come in to reform with those guidelines," he said. "But one can choose -- a region like the Bay Area, the six counties, can choose to be a little bit more ... restrictive. Parts of Southern California, L.A. and others the same. So not everyone is compelled into this phase. But that phase is afforded to everybody."
The state has also released guidelines for dine-in restaurants, when they are eventually allowed to reopen. When such openings are permitted, the guidelines call for restrictions on capacity and mandates on safety, such as face coverings for employees and customers.