California public health officials Friday announced guidelines for reopening schools, day camps and child care facilities — steps business leaders believe are critical for getting residents back to work – – as well as signaling that casinos can open, sports teams can resume play in empty arenas and film production can resume on a county-by-county basis.
The final decision about when and how such operations will restart is up to local officials.
“It is up to the local jurisdiction to make decisions regarding reopening specific sectors based upon the epidemiology and readiness of the county,” according to a statement issued by the California Department of Public Health.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday pushing for “immediate” guidance on getting schools, summer camps and youth programs reopened.
“The future of Los Angeles County and the state of California rests with our children,” wrote Barger, expressing concern about gaps in growth and development due to school closures. “We cannot fully reopen vital parts of our economy and allow parents to return to work without stable school, camp or recreational programs for children and youth.”
The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and the Department of General Services said they will distribute personal protective equipment and other supplies to traditional and charter public schools, private schools and childcare facilities.
The agencies plan to send out:
— more than 47,000 no-touch thermometers for every school and childcare facility;
— roughly 2.4 million face shields for every teacher and childcare provider;
— more than 14 million cloth face coverings for staff and students;
— more than 16 million disposable masks;
— 123,000 N95 masks for school-based health professionals, including those interacting with symptomatic students; and
— 143,000 gallons of hand sanitizer.
The Department of General Services will also work with schools and childcare providers to procure additional PPE and other supplies.
Film production may resume no sooner than June 12, subject to county health officers’ review and based on safety protocols agreed to by labor and management and vetted by public health officials.
Pro sports teams may begin training and playing games without fans no sooner than June 12, subject to the same approvals.
In Los Angeles County, pro sports teams and venues and film producers and studios have already submitted recommended safety protocols to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors based on industry-wide input. During a Tuesday meeting of the Economic Resiliency Task Force, business leaders promised to promote safety by requiring masks and enforcing social distancing in various ways.
Friday’s release of state guidelines also anticipates allowing hotels, gyms, bars, RV camps and many other enterprises to resume operations, though rural areas may move more quickly than densely populated areas like Los Angeles County.
California has 122,901 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 4,485 people have died from the infection to date. More than 2.2 million have been tested and testing capacity continues to increase statewide, according to officials. The rate of positive tests stand at 4.5% and the number of hospitalizations has decreased.
Los Angeles County has the same positivity rate and has seen a slight decrease in the rate of hospitalization, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
However, the county’s medical services director, Dr. Christina Ghaly, noted Friday a slight uptick in transmission rates that could overwhelm the area’s ICU beds over the coming weeks. Local public health officials have also worried that large protests may generate a surge in cases.
The state has released a county monitoring list so that residents can track progress and note areas of concern as elected officials balance safety and economic concerns.
California’s public health officer warned that residents shouldn’t get the wrong message from businesses opening their doors.
“Just because some businesses are opening doesn’t mean your risk for COVID-19 is gone. We all need to continue to keep physical distancing, wash our hands and wear face coverings in public,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, state public health officer and director of the California Department of Public Health. “As we continue to release guidance on how different sections can reopen with modifications, it is important to remember guidance doesn’t mean `go.’ Your local health officer will make the final decision about which sectors will open, guided by data specific to your community.”
Orange County officials expect their chief Health Care Officer, Dr. Nichole Quick, to issue orders and guidelines for the reopening of the businesses soon.
“This is a huge step forward,” said Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, president of the California State Association of Counties, which worked with the governor’s office on the reopening plans.
“I think it’s going to be a really big help” in the reinvigoration of the economy, Bartlett said.
Bartlett said she envisions schools will likely have smaller class sizes, so teachers may have to work longer hours.
“My guess is they’ll have multiple sessions for kids,” Bartlett said. “If you have a class with 48 kids, they’ll have multiple sessions of, say, 24 kids in each class session.”
Los Angeles County officials said they are reviewing the state guidelines to determine when the county might be able to act on them.