L.A. County working to ease stay-at-home order by May

Colleen Shalby
Dr. Lisa Dabby, 41, left, an emergency room physician with UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica, talks with nursing staff at the entrance to the temporary initial screening area outside the hospital.  (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County officials passed a motion Tuesday to develop a plan to ease the Safer at Home order, strict social distancing rules that have slowed the spread of the coronavirus, which is set to expire May 15.



Public Health Department director Barbara Ferrer said Tuesday there were no plans to extend the current order but that, as the deadline approaches, officials would reevaluate what was best for the county.

More than 20,000 in the county of 10 million have tested positive for the virus, and nearly 950 have died. County officials have warned the public that, although social distancing practices have worked to slow the spread of the virus, the number of those who have been infected is likely far higher than the official count.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion Tuesday to establish an action plan to work with local businesses, labor partners and community leaders to lift restrictions.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, echoing an earlier statement by Gov. Gavin Newsom, said gradually lifting restrictions would not be like flipping a switch: “It’s more like a dimmer.”

“I would caution everyone from thinking that we have an end in sight, or we’re nearing the end of this unprecedented tragedy,” Hahn said. “This is not going to just go away. Coronavirus is going to be around forever, and without a vaccine to prevent us from getting the virus or a therapeutic drug to treat you, we need to really be cautious in how we reopen our society.”

The framework, co-authored by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis, lays out a set of priorities:

  1. Reopening of the economy through an economic resilience task force
  2. Recovery through a permanent 501(c)3 fund
  3. Reinvention among businesses concerning how they function, including using continued telecommuting services
  4. Resurgence of the economy through a doubling of L.A. County Works initiative
  5. Resiliency concerning educational efforts for youth

“This is a dark time for everyone,” Hahn said. “I don’t think we should be persuaded by petitions or people pressuring us to reopen too soon.”

Newsom on Tuesday announced a plan under which California businesses seen as presenting less risk of spreading the coronavirus could open in the near future.

But Newsom’s announcement of a four-phase plan did not come with a guaranteed timetable. He said while current public health indicators such as hospitalizations and testing capacity look promising, additional progress needs to be made.

The plan he presented on Tuesday envisions four distinct phases for ending the shutdown. The governor said the state is currently in the first phase, marked by efforts to provide an economic safety net for low-wage workers who might otherwise work when sick and encouraging the use of face coverings by residents when in places where they cannot practice safe physical distancing.