LA County set to largely reopen Tuesday after more than a year of coronavirus restrictions. Here’s what that means – Daily News

on Jun15
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Los Angeles County is about to hit a milestone on Tuesday, June 15 — by joining California in fully reopening its economy.

After a year of scrambling to stay alive, businesses will be allowed to forgo coronavirus-related social distancing and open to full capacity, while fully vaccinated individuals can largely ditch masks.

Bars can put their stools back at the counter. Dodger Stadium will be at full capacity for the first time since 2019. Restaurants and stores don’t have to worry about capacity limits either. And folks don’t have to fret about whether they are 6 feet apart from others.

But the change also comes with uncertainties and concerns.

Business owners, for example, have said government agencies haven’t provided precise information about what is allowed starting Tuesday, meaning the reopening could mark another daunting phase as they navigate the post-pandemic world. Specifically, some have said they are unsure whether their vaccinated workers would need to wear masks, ask patrons about their vaccination status, or require both workers and staff to wear face coverings for now.

“There is not a clear path on what you’re supposed to do,” said Francoise Koster, owner of La Poubelle French Bistro, in Hollywood. “It’s frustrating.”

Francoise Koster, owner of La Poubelle French Bistro in Hollywood is preparing her restaurant for full-reopening protocols on June 15th. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, however, have been trying to clarify the upcoming guidelines in notices, press releases and public meetings.

Among the most significant changes is that all requirements related to capacity limits and physical distancing at businesses will be lifted, meaning bars and restaurants can return to full houses.

Masking requirements indoors generally will remain only for the unvaccinated. Business will be allowed to verify vaccination status in one of three ways: They can allow customers to self attest, require they show a vaccination card or simply require that all individuals wear masks.

Masks will still be required after Tuesday and regardless of vaccination settings, in several specific situations, however. That includes:

  • Public transit and transportation terminals;
  • Indoors K-12 schools, children and youth settings (though this may change as guidance is revised);
  • Health care settings including long term care settings;
  • State and local correctional facilities; and
  • Homeless and emergency shelters.

Physical distancing and other restrictions — such as bans on self-service salad bars — will be eliminated, returning once again to pre-pandemic practices.

But there’s a caveat: All of this is up to the discretion of each business. That’s right. any business can choose to keep COVID-19 safety protocols in place and no individual can be prevented from wearing a face mask.

There is a different set of standards for workers, however. And that has caused the most confusion.

Officials with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health released the proposed new workplace rules last week. Those rules largely align with state mask-wearing guidance for the general public. The rules would require businesses to verify workers’ vaccination statuses and make masks available to unvaccinated workers. Vaccinated workers would not be required to wear masks in the workplace under the proposed rules.

The Cal-OSHA board is expected to meet Thursday, June 17, to set worksite mask-wearing regulations, which Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday he was prepared to implement immediately through executive order.

Under normal procedures, the board’s decision would have to be reviewed by state attorneys and wouldn’t take effect until the end of the month. Newsom’s executive order would close that gap and immediately implement the rules later this week.

Francoise Koster, owner of La Poubelle French Bistro in Hollywood is preparing her restaurant for full-reopening protocols on June 15th. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“There are people who think that the doors are going to be open and the limits are off,” said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, “and there are other people who just don’t trust the government.”

But despite those concerns, there was a general excitement in the lead up to Tuesday about returning — mostly — to normal.

Mark Davis, president and chief executive of Sun Hill Properties Inc., the owner of Hilton Los Angeles/Universal City, said he was “looking forward to that magic day next week when we’re supposed to be back to normal.”

His company, though, will remain cautious — out of concern for guests and team members — by following more restrictive rules.

Riders on a Metro bus in Los Angeles wear face masks in 2020.. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

“We’re not the cops and we don’t enforce the law or regulations,” Davis said, “but we follow the guidelines to the strictest regulation that’s provided by any of the institutions of authority.”

Still, he said, Tuesday was a big day.

“We don’t look to it as confusion,” he said. “We look to it as excitement and good news for all.”

The state’s mask rules for non-employees, meanwhile, also isn’t without its conditions and recommendations — particularly for those attending events at large venues.

At outdoor events with more than 10,000 participants, for example, the state is recommending verification of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. Or, if the person is neither vaccinated nor tested, venues can give that guest the option to attend but with a mask required. Such events could be festivals, parades, sporting events and concerts.

Indoor venues with more than 5,000 guests get even tighter rules, as they have throughout the pandemic. The state will require such venues to verify that guests have been vaccinated or have had a negative coronavirus test.  That includes conventions, sporting events and concerts.

California will also align with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations on travel. That means restrictions and prohibitions will remain for travelers coming from countries that have severe outbreaks. But there will be no quarantine and isolation requirements for travel within the country.

Some questions remain, however, including whether the region could see coronavirus metrics tick back up after Tuesday — since the county is not yet at the vaccination threshold most experts say would create herd immunity. Officials reiterated on Monday that getting vaccinated and wearing a mask if you aren’t inoculated are the best tools for keeping case rates low.

Another question is whether stores, restaurants, bars and the rest will see business boom quickly or whether there will there be a slow build as folks, after more than a year of restrictions, adjust to normal life again.

“We don’t know when customers come in, whether they’re going to feel comfortable — or if they’ll come in at all,” said Vivian Hernandez, a manager at Alex’s Bar, in Long Beach “We’re just like everybody else, wondering what’s going to happen.”

Still, despite such concerns, there was a sense that economy could soon thrive.

“All communities win with the lifting of restrictions,” said Maria Salinas, presidents and CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses large and small can return to full capacity, rehire employees, and thereby support their families”

City News Service and staff writer Hayley Munguia contributed to this story.

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