L.A. County to consider ways some cities could reopen under coronavirus guidelines

Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Soon, certain cities in Los Angeles County might have more leeway over when they can reopen some businesses.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will consider a motion at its Tuesday meeting that would instruct the county health officer to work with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and state public health officials to devise a plan that would allow the parts of the county that have been less hard-hit by COVID-19 to reopen more quickly.

Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn authored the motion, in which they argue that Los Angeles County is too demographically and geographically diverse to fall under one public health order.

“The Fifth District alone has incorporated cities with as few as 1,000 residents and as many as nearly 200,000 residents,” the supervisors wrote in their motion, referencing Barger’s district, which encompasses 2,807 square miles.

“This virus is impacting each city in our county differently; some cities have zero reported cases, while others have case rates greater than 700 per 100,000 residents.”


An executive order that Newsom issued in early May created a pathway for local health officers to implement measures that depart from state directives if their communities can meet certain criteria established by the state public health department.

Those criteria include having testing available for at least 75% of residents, as measured by having a specimen collection site, including established healthcare providers, within 30 minutes of driving time in urban areas and 60 minutes in rural areas.

Several cities in the county have expressed interest in a city or regional variance plan. It is unclear, based on the information provided in the supervisors’ motion, how much of L.A. County could meet the criteria required.

“The county of Los Angeles has invested heavily in PPE, testing, hospital capacity and other measures over the past 60 days to flatten the curve,” the supervisors wrote in their motion. “Accordingly, over the last week, the average rate of hospitalization has declined 1.6% per day, and testing capacity was over 1.6 per 1,000 residents per day. The county’s positive test rate has dropped to 9%, down 5% in the last few weeks. Many of these data points meet or exceed the state criteria.”

The economic impact for L.A. County would be substantial.

More than 1 million unemployment claims have been filed in L.A. County since mid-March, and an estimated 750,000 jobs are expected to be lost from the retail and food-service industries, according to the supervisors’ motion. About 75% of the total jobs lost will be among residents who earn $50,000 or less per year.