L.A. County allows churches, stores, pools, drive-in theaters to reopen with restrictions

Shoppers come and go from the Brea Mall, which reopened Tuesday.
(Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County announced Tuesday that it will align with California’s latest guidelines and allow the resumption of faith-based services, in-store shopping at low-risk retail stores, drive-in movies and other recreational activities with restrictions.

The new order from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, released Tuesday evening, sets the stage for the county to request a variance from the state to permit faster reopening in some areas. L.A. County has been the California epicenter of coronavirus, with more than 2,100 deaths.

Under the shift, faith-based organizations can resume services, with the number of congregants limited to 25% of the building’s capacity, or a maximum of 100 people, whichever is lower.

All retail establishments, including those located in indoor and outdoor shopping centers, can open for business at 50% capacity; flea markets, swap meets and drive-in movie theaters can also resume operations. Pools, hot tubs and saunas that are in a multi-unit residence or part of a homeowners association can also open.

The shift comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday that barbershops and hair salons would be allowed to reopen in many counties throughout the state. Newsom said 47 of California’s 58 counties had already met the state’s standards and could move forward in reopening.


In Los Angeles, “personal care” businesses such as nail and hair salons will remain closed, according to the county order.

The updated health order also provides guidelines for public protests, permitting them as long as attendance is limited to 25% of the area’s maximum occupancy, or a maximum of 100 attendees, whichever is lower.

Physical distancing requirements, the wearing of face coverings and other safety protocols must still be observed, officials said.

“Aligning Los Angeles County’s health orders with that of the state is going to provide immediate relief to our communities. This important step will enable our residents and businesses to have greater clarity and consistency as we continue to take positive steps toward reopening Los Angeles County,” Kathryn Barger, chair of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said in a statement.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis acknowledged the importance of reopening certain activities but noted that it “does not mean going back to business as usual.”

“We’ve basically wiped out a decade worth of job creation in a month and a half,” an economist says. May’s unemployment figures will probably look even grimmer.


“As long as community members follow safety rules, we can continue to make more progress,” she said. “Our houses of worship can once again welcome people inside. Shopping malls and communal flea markets can get back to business. I am so proud of all the progress we’ve made to protect our loved ones from COVID-19. Given our resilience and collective sacrifice, we are ready to take the next step to reopen our economy.”

Gatherings of people not from the same household are still prohibited, except for faith-based services and in-person protests. The county encouraged those 65 or older and anyone with underlying health conditions to stay home as much as possible.

Also Tuesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that all retail businesses in the city will be able to allow customers inside their stores starting Wednesday, as long as they adopt the county’s safety protocols.

“We’ve earned the right way to do it,” Garcetti said at a media briefing. “It’s time to make sure we don’t punish our local stores and we begin to fortify again our main streets.”

Churches and other houses of worship also will be allowed to reopen, he said, but must follow the state’s guideline of limiting services to 25% of their normal capacity, or 100 people, whichever is smaller.

“This is guidance,” Garcetti added. “Reopen when you are ready.”

Restaurants are still restricted to pick-up services, he said.