LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Businesses in Los Angeles County and across the state returned to mostly normal operations today with the lifting of COVID-19-prompted capacity limits and physical distancing requirements, a move that brought a celebratory atmosphere to the Southland.
There were plenty of smiles Tuesday morning at Los Angeles' famed Langer's Delicatessen-Restaurant, which has been closed to in-person service for more than a year. The business had been relying solely on takeout and delivery orders during the pandemic.
But at 8 a.m., restaurant owners and workers were joined by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and LAPD Chief Michel Moore for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially reopen the eatery.
"Langer's is open, and California is open for business," Feuer proclaimed as the restaurant welcomed back diners.
Like other businesses, the restaurant returned to normal operations — mostly. Masks are still required for people going inside.
County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis, other county officials and a group of frontline workers gathered at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles to mark the lifting of restrictions. While celebratory in nature, the gathering also struck a somber tone in remembrance of the more than 23,000 county residents who have died during the pandemic. A moment of silence was held in memory of those lost.
Solis also pointed to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on communities of color.
"They have suffered from years of under-investment, lacking access to health care and living in polluted areas impacting their overall well-being, resulting in chronic conditions that made them even more vulnerable," Solis said. "We owe it to those who lost and those who continue to suffer from these inequities and to commit to make it right. We cannot go back to the way things were, simply put."
The Los Angeles Dodgers will celebrate the state's reopening at the team's 7:10 p.m. game against the Philadelphia Phillies, opening the stadium for full-capacity seating for the first time since the pandemic began.
Gov. Gavin Newsom was in L.A. County to mark the occasion, visiting Universal Studios Hollywood, where he oversaw the drawing of the names of 10 lucky California residents who have been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. The winners will receive $1.5 million each.
The state on July 1 will hold another vaccine-incentive drawing, giving away six California vacation packages, including trips to Anaheim, San Diego, Los Angeles, Rancho Mirage and San Francisco.
Through Thursday, anyone who gets a first vaccine dose at sites run by Los Angeles County, the city of Los Angeles or St. John's Well Child and Family Center will be entered for a chance to win season tickets for the Clippers, Chargers or Rams. The contest is also open to anyone who comes in for a second-dose appointment and brings along another person who needs a first dose.
While the majority of COVID restrictions are lifted, mask-wearing will continue to be in effect in many situations, and businesses can continue requiring customers to wear them. Vaccination efforts will also continue, with the county Department of Public Health on Monday urging residents to get the shots, particularly with the Fourth of July holiday on the horizon.
The department noted that unvaccinated residents who get the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot by Sunday will be fully vaccinated by July 4. People who opt for the two-dose Moderna or Pfizer vaccines are too late to be fully vaccinated by the holiday, but getting the first dose will at least provide some protection, officials said.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said unvaccinated people should continue to wear face coverings as statewide capacity and physical distancing restrictions are lifted, noting that many people in the county still are not vaccinated.
"We want to stay in this very good place where we are," Ferrer said. "As we lift many restrictions today (Tuesday), we need to be mindful the virus has not become less lethal. If anything, recent mutations have created more infectious and deadly variants potentially capable of causing great devastation. And while vaccination provides powerful protection, many people are not yet vaccinated, including 1.4 million children under the age of 12. There are also areas in our county where vaccination coverage remains low. And even where vaccination coverage is higher, it is not at the level needed to bring us to community immunity."
As of Tuesday, 5.4 million county residents, representing 66% of the eligible population, had received at least one dose of vaccine. About 4.66 million, or 56% of eligible residents, were fully vaccinated.
Los Angeles County reported six new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, along with 210 new infections.
To date, the county has recorded 24,416 deaths and 1,246,619 infections during the pandemic.
According to state figures, there were 216 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 as of Tuesday, down from 218 on Monday. There were 49 people in intensive care, up from 43 a day earlier.