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Gyms, museums, hotels, day camps, arena sports can reopen in L.A. County on Friday

An empty gym
Gyms and fitness facilities in L.A. County have approval to open on Friday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County on Wednesday announced that gyms and fitness facilities, pro-league arenas without audiences, day camps, museums, galleries, zoos, aquariums, campgrounds, RV parks, outdoor recreational areas including swimming pools, music, film and television production and hotels for leisure travel will be allowed to reopen Friday.

The further reopening comes as 1,275 new cases and an additional 61 deaths linked to COVID-19 were reported by L.A. County public health officials.

Nail salons, tattoo shops, bars and wineries, movie theaters, live performance theaters, entertainment centers, concert halls and venues, stadiums, arenas, gaming facilities, theme parks and festivals are still closed in the county. Despite lifted restrictions, parties, gatherings and mixing of households is still not allowed.

“No, we are completely not out of the woods, we are still in in the middle of the woods and we still have a lot of risk,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “I know how desperate people are to get be able to get back to events but that is not in our health officer order nor is it in the state health officer order.” The only exceptions to assembly are political protests and religious worship.

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Officials said they will announce safety protocols for those businesses on Thursday and that operations that comply may reopen the next day. Strict infection control directives will be in place and visitors and staff be required to practice physical distancing and wear cloth face coverings. Each newly reopened area will have limited capacity and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting procedures.

The move marks another major step in reopening the economy despite continued increases in both the number of new coronavirus infections and deaths related to the illness. Los Angeles County remains the epicenter in California of the pandemic, with more than 2,700 deaths, and is one of 10 counties the state is currently monitoring for increased transmission of the virus.

The bulk of California’s cases are still in Los Angeles County, where officials reported 61 additional COVID-19-related deaths and 1,275 new cases on Wednesday.

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Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services for L.A. County, said that the transmission rate of the virus is likely to continue increasing overtime.

“If transmission has indeed increased as recent data has suggested it has, the model predicts that we will have a continued increase in hospital patient volume in the next two to four weeks,” she said. That could mean that the number of beds in intensive care units may become inadequate, she said. County officials will continue to work with state officials and hospitals to monitor for such changes, and continue to warn residents to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing practices.

On Tuesday, for the second day in a row, the state reported more than 3,000 cases, bringing the total number of infections to over 137,000.

The bulk of the cases are in L.A. County, and a concerning sign is that the coronavirus transmission rate in the county appears to be climbing again.

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Temperature taking. Riderless bikes. No showers, or basketball. Welcome to the socially distanced gym.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Los Angeles County did not significantly decline last week compared to the previous week. That’s the first time that has happened since hospitalizations were at their peak on the last week of April. There were an average of 2,010 hospitalized patients daily last week, with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections, down 0.1% from the previous week’s daily average of 2,012. There are currently 1,458 hospitalized individuals. Of that group, 29% are in intensive care and 20% of those are on ventilators.

But authorities say it is still possible to strike the right balance between reopening society and adhering to strict safety rules. They expect additional infections as more people go back to old routines but said that following social distancing and other protocols can reduce the risk of getting sick.

State officials earlier this week said that movie theaters and bars could reopen if counties felt it was safe to do so. Neither of those facilities were included in L.A. County’s plans announced Wednesday.


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