LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles County today reopened some beach parking lots and authorized retail businesses inside enclosed shopping malls to reopen with curbside pickup service only, while continuing to warn of the continued spread of the coronavirus.
The changes came as county officials braced for a holiday weekend that could again challenge residents' resolve to adhere to stay-at-home restrictions that bar large gatherings and require face coverings and social distancing when residents interact with others.
"Based on the week that we opened up the trails and golf courses, I was very proud of the L.A. County residents who really did recognize wearing a mask and the social distancing that was in place," said Kathryn Barger, chair of the county Board of Supervisors. "So I'm confident moving into this holiday, people will also recognize that is the reason why we talk about Safer At Home moving to safer at work and safer in our communities. Because people are recognizing that is the only way we're going to stop or slow down the spread of this virus.
"So I'm encouraging people -- I know we are lifting restrictions in certain areas. Please be responsible. This is the only way we are going to move toward the next phase of opening. I know people are talking about opening up small businesses. ... The only way we're going to get there is if we continue to keep this flat. So I would encourage you all to just honor the request. It's not a big ask, given what we have in store for us."
The county reported another 35 deaths due to coronavirus, although five of those fatalities were announced Thursday afternoon by health officials in Pasadena and Long Beach. The new deaths increased the county's total to 2,049.
Public health director Barbara Ferrer said 93% of the people who died had underlying health conditions, a slight increase of the 92% level of the past several weeks.
"Over 35% of us here in L.A. County, sometimes the number can be as high as 40%, have underlying health conditions," Ferrer said. "So I know sometimes folks think there's a very tiny group of people who are at an elevated risk of serious illness from COVID-19, but here in L.A. County it's one out of three of us."
Ferrer also announced another 1,072 confirmed cases of the virus, raising the countywide total to 43,052.
The county on Thursday reopened its 22-mile bike path that stretches from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. The path had remained closed despite beaches reopening last week for active use, in hopes of preventing large gatherings of people on the often-congested trail.
On Friday, the county also announced the reopening of parking lots at Dockweiler State Beach, Will Rogers State Beach, Zuma Beach and Surfrider Beach, but only at partial capacity. With beaches reopening for at least partial use, issues have arisen with people flocking to the coast but being forced to find street parking in coastal neighborhoods, leading to congestion issues.
County officials warned anyone heading to the beach that face coverings are mandatory while not in the water. The active-use restriction also forbids sunbathing on the sand, meaning chairs, umbrellas, canopies and coolers are still barred. Piers, boardwalks and volleyball courts also remain off-limits.
The county on Friday also authorized retail stores located in enclosed shopping malls to reopen for curbside merchandise pickup only. Customers are still not permitted to enter enclosed shopping malls. County officials urged shopping malls to establish clearly marked curbside pickup areas for customers to pick up goods.
Also approved on Friday were car parades to allow for celebrations of graduations, birthdays or other occasions. The guidelines, however, require participants to be inside enclosed vehicles -- no convertibles -- and if windows are open, vehicle occupants must wear face coverings.
Large-scale parades much have a designated host and security to ensure compliance with health regulations.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner praised the change, which will allow students to celebrate their graduations.
"As we have said -- and have wanted to do all along -- we would allow those at our schools to plan celebrations which include gatherings as long as they are in accordance with guidelines from Los Angeles County health authorities," he said.