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L.A. County Considers If Some Cities Can Reopen Faster Than Others

May 15, 2020 by Juliet Bennett Rylah
Santa Clarita Photo: Jeff Turner/Flickr

According to L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, some individual cities have asked about reopening faster than the rest of the county. Barger has asked both Los Angeles County Counsel and the Dept. of Public Health to provide an analysis on the possibility.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plans for reopening allow variances for individual California counties to push deeper into Stage 2 if they can meet certain criteria, including no more than one coronavirus case per 10,000 people and zero COVID-19 deaths in the last 14 days. Public health officials admit that these benchmarks are nearly impossible for Los Angeles County to meet in the near future. Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer recently said the county would most likely have to wait for the state to move forward as a whole.

But Barger noted that while Newsom’s variances reflect the diversity of California, Los Angeles County is a diverse place, too. 

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“Los Angeles County [has] communities that are as urban and rural as the entire state. I think it’s important for cities to be able to meet their own benchmarks and safely reopen, so that they are not dependent only on the county,” Barger said. 

Barger said that some cities—including Santa Clarita, Lancaster, and Palmdale—have already reached out to the county about reopening earlier.

“Their numbers have been low and they want the opportunity to work with Public Health based on the governor’s criteria to see if they can do it as a regional approach,” Barger said. “I don’t have a position at this point other than to ask both County Counsel and Public Health to look at it and see if it can be done because the last thing I want to do is put us in a place where we go back to square one with Safer at Home. But arguably, if you look at their numbers and what they’re talking about in terms of criteria, most of the criteria they can meet.”

It should be noted that for Public Health, the number of cases a particular city has isn’t the most important number. During today’s briefing, Ferrer also talked about a “recovery dashboard” that shows the county’s capability and effectiveness in slowing the spread of COVID-19. It doesn’t measure the number of positive cases. It does measure how many ICU beds and ventilators are available, average daily deaths and hospitalizations, testing capacity, and the percentage of hospitals with at least 15 days worth of PPE. (You can see any dashboard the county has made available online here.)

“Where we’re worried is if more cases ended up with more people in the hospital, and we ended up not meeting our hospital benchmarks,” she said.

At this point, it’s not clear when the county or interested cities will get an answer from County Counsel or the Department of Public Health.

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