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Here’s what L.A.’s new “Safer at Home” order will look like

Expect limited capacities and a few more closures for a three-week period, but not a lockdown.

By
Stephanie Breijo
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L.A. County’s Board of Supervisors met on Tuesday and, in addition to upholding the county decision to ban all on-site dining for the next three weeks, they heard from the Department of Public Health on exactly what our new “Safer at Home” order could entail.

Now, on Friday, they’ve made it official: Angelenos are now being advised to stay home as much as possible, and a number of sectors will see reduced capacities. But unlike this spring’s Safer at Home order, this new “targeted” one won’t see many full-blown shutdowns. The new rules go into effect on Monday, November 30 and will last for three weeks, through December 20.

Last week Los Angeles announced a set of cautionary thresholds dictated by five-day case averages or daily hospitalization rates; over the weekend the county exceeded the first of them, triggering a shutdown of patio dining that started on Wednesday at 10pm. On Monday the Department of Public Health reported the day’s case total reached 6,124, placing our five-day average above the second threshold (4,500 cases) which triggers a second “Safer at Home” order, albeit a “targeted” one.

The biggest change: All public and private gatherings with people outside of your household will be prohibited, with the exception of outdoor church service and protests. This marks an about-face from last month’s updated guidelines that allowed outdoor gatherings for up to three different households, and an expansion of the still-in-place state curfew that limits gatherings after 10pm.

In contrast with the spring’s more stringent “Safer at Home” order, this next round allows for a number of communal spaces to remain open at limited capacity or with other restrictions. Shared outdoor facilities that are already operating can remain open for members of a single household, including golf courses, tennis courts, pickleball courts, archery ranges, skate parks and community gardens, and all beaches, trails and parks can also stay open, but gathering at them is now prohibited with members outside of your own household.

A number of activities can still continue, such as childcare, schools, libraries (at 20 percent capacity), gyms (outdoors at 50% capacity), youth sports for conditioning, and pro sports. Some will see drastic changes; both outdoor and indoor swimming pools will need to close except for regulated lap swimming, and all outdoor facilities where everyone is masked now need to cut down to 50 percent occupancy.

Other capacity cuts apply to essential and non-essential retail alike: Supermarkets, hardware stores, banks and other essentials will need to limit to 35 percent capacity, while non-essential retail, such as electronics or clothing shops, and personal care services, like hair and nail salons, need to trim down to 20 percent—both slightly smaller capacities than we’ve recently been allowed under the statewide “purple” reopening phase.

A small number of sectors will need to close entirely, such as card rooms and playgrounds (with an exception for childcare facilities).

“Everyone should stay home as much as possible and limit going out to what is essential for the next two to three weeks to slow the surging cases and save lives,” Department of Public Health advisory from earlier in the week read. “Staying home as much as possible, always wearing face covering securely over your nose and mouth when out and avoiding being near anyone not in your household are the simple actions that slow the spread of COVID-19.”

All of these guidelines were first revealed by the Department of Public Health during Tuesday’s contentious Board of Supervisors meeting, which saw board members at odds over other implementations meant to limit coronavirus spread—as seen during discussion over a failed motion to halt or at very least postpone the ban on outdoor dining. Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger pressed Public Health for data that ties L.A. outbreaks to outdoor dining, though Public Health could not offer any specifics and instead referenced a more general CDC study. Also, Hahn noted that the thresholds to shut down dining and other businesses felt more like a deterrent when they agreed to them last week, that “we had no idea how quickly those numbers would be upon us—we thought we were weeks away.”

As it stands, L.A. County restaurants have already needed to halt all service beyond takeout, delivery and retail, with one exception: The city of Pasadena, while in Los Angeles County, maintains its own health department and announced that Pasadena can continue offering outdoor dining, and will constantly reevaluate its position (though the city has said that a Safer at Home order from the county would likely end outdoor dining).

The story was originally published on November 24 and has been updated with the timing of the order.

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