Los Angeles County Coronavirus Update: Drive In Movie Theater Rules Expanded; Shopping Malls, Breweries, Nail Salons Allowed To Reopen, With Restrictions, In L.A.

One day after the county announced K-12 schools can apply for reopening waivers, Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced that a number of businesses will be allowed to proceed with a staggered approach to reopening over the next 10 days.

Those businesses include cardrooms (outdoors only, no food and beverages), indoor shopping malls (at 25% occupancy; food courts must stay closed), nail salons (outdoors only) and outdoor playgrounds (subject to city and/or county parks and rec approval). Indoor playgrounds stay closed. Reopening measures for breweries and wineries are under consideration.

The county also recently clarified the guidelines for drive-in movie theaters to address popup screenings and drive-in concerts. “Live drive-in events (e.g. concerts, live performances) are not allowed,” the guidelines says. “Individuals must remain in or on their vehicles.” The guidelines also provide clarification regarding the provision of food, specifically food trucks vs. a static facility associated with the venue. The favor established drive-ins. See below for more.

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There was more good news in the COVID-19 monitoring data.

“Test positivity rate has fallen significantly,” Ferrer said. “This is the lowest test positivity rate that we’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Hospitalizations, she continued, are at “the lowest number we’ve seen in 6 months.”

“We’re now seeing our daily average number of deaths decline to levels not seen since April,” said the director, before saying the decline in deaths also shows the difference in who’s being infected. The increase in number of young people — who are better able to survive infection — correlates with this decrease in deaths, she said.

County Director of Health and Human Services Dr. Christina Ghaly reported that the R — or average number of new cases that will result from each infected cases — which was 1.02 last week is now 1.0.

Ghaly did announce, however that county models show the number of hospitalizations rising in coming weeks. Within the next month she said, “additional ICU beds may be needed” for coronavirus patients. Luckily, given the current low rate of occupancy, “hospitals are able to flex their ICU beds up and down,” she observed.

Ferrer also noted that, “There is a small increase in cases that may either reflect either lower testing numbers at the beginning of the month or they may reflect that we’re starting to see some small increases in community transmission.”

“Over the last few days,” she continued, “you’ve seen this slight increase in cases.”

And those may be amplified going into flu season.

“We’ve never experienced a flu season simultaneously with COVID-19,” remarked Ghaly. “The flu could make COVID-19 worse and COVID-19 could make the flu worse.”

“We don’t want the peak of the flu season to coincide with the peak of COVID-19 infections,” she said.

Saying any coronavirus vaccine is “months away,” Ghaly urged residents to get the flu vaccine.

Asked about the contrast between the reopenings and the hospitalization warnings Ferrer said that it’s like “threading the needle a little bit,” but “there is a desire on the part of those sectors [recently] allowed by the state to work with them on reopening. We have determined with really good adherence to the directives that are in place…that hopefully we won’t see an increase.”

Ferrer announced an 30 additional deaths on Wednesday for a total of 6,576 lives lost since the pandemic began.

The county reported 1,063 new cases on Wednesday, for a total of 270,299.

From the new L.A. County Health Department protocols for drive-ins:

This protocol applies to both established and new drive-in movie theater operations. All drive-in movie operations must have sufficient infrastructure, staffing and training to meet all physical distancing, face covering and sanitation requirements. Established facilities with an established workforce, bathrooms and permitted food facilities are more easily able to meet safety requirements. Requirements specific to new drive-in operations being set up in parking lots and other spaces that are not pre-established drive-in movie businesses are listed at the end of this protocol.

Drive-in movie theater operations must be managed by a single employer in charge of the site, who will take responsibility for the ongoing training and screening of all staff, provision of all needed equipment and materials, the monitoring of adherence to all safety measures during any showing and obtaining approvals from local zoning and city officials, if required.

Live drive-in events (e.g. concerts, live performances) are not allowed at this time. Drive in theaters may project livestreamed content that is filmed elsewhere as long as the filming adhered to the requirements detailed in Appendix J.

Any food service must be from an on-site licensed restaurant, permitted concession stand, or prepackaged food from a market permitted by Environmental Health. Food may be purchased and picked up onsite or ordered through third party delivery services and delivered to the customer’s vehicle. These food facilities must adhere to all applicable restaurant and/or food service reopening protocols. Attendees may bring their own food. Temporary concession stands and other food facilities (e.g. catered food, food trucks, food carts) are not allowed.

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