L.A. County weighs indoor reopening of hair salons and shopping malls

 Press Box Barber Shop in Lawndale
Nader Salameh, left, and his son, Gavyn, 9, center, from Lawndale, get their hair cut by barbers Anthony Ho, left and Christian Mikhail, center, in the parking lot of Press Box Barber Shop in Lawndale.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County officials are weighing whether to allow the reopening of indoor shopping centers, retail shops and hair salons in accordance with the state’s new guidelines, which permit counties — no matter their COVID-19 status — to reopen such businesses under certain conditions.

If county officials decide to lift the restrictions ahead of Labor Day weekend, the businesses would be allowed to operate at 25% capacity, as well as indoor modified operations at hair salons and barbershops.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer and the Board of Supervisors met Tuesday to discuss the new guidance, but no decision was made. Any change to the county’s guidelines will be announced Wednesday afternoon, according to the county’s Department of Public Health.

In a statement, Ferrer suggested that current conditions still don’t allow for an immediate reopening.


“There is a lot at stake. Increased numbers of people being around one another can result in more transmission of COVID-19, at a time where we need to be doubling down on our efforts to slow the spread,” she said. “Our past weekend inspections demonstrated that 20% of restaurants and 17% of markets are still not in compliance with the Health Officer Orders. This does not help us get our numbers down.”

The county announced 45 new deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday and 840 new infections.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new guidelines Friday, and counties across the state have taken different directions, with some, like San Francisco, adopting a cautious approach that doesn’t allow barbershops and nail salons to open indoor operations until late September.

In Los Angeles, where the unemployment rate hit 20% over the last few months, county supervisors have been deluged with calls from concerned business owners who have been unable to work for months.

The timing of the reopening, coming ahead of a major holiday weekend, Labor Day, recalls the last major reopening strategy, which took place shortly before and after Memorial Day weekend.

What followed after Memorial Day was a surge in cases and hospitalizations that have only subsided in recent weeks. It’s unclear how the upcoming Labor Day weekend may be affecting county officials’ decision to allow for indoor operations at shuttered businesses.

The state has placed L.A. County, along with 37 other counties, on Tier 1 of its reopening plan for having widespread risk of the virus. The county has recorded more than 242,000 cases and over 5,800 deaths. In recent weeks, those numbers have declined and stabilized, but August stands as the county’s deadliest month since the pandemic hit.


Most nonessential businesses in Tier 1 counties, such as L.A., are closed. As a county moves through the tiers, more businesses are allowed to reopen. State Health and Human Services Director Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday that the updates, particularly a focus on a seven-day average instead of a 14-day one, are more in keeping with the data analysis of other states and countries around the world. The tiers are:

  • Tier 1, widespread transmission: Counties have more than seven daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of more than 8%.
  • Tier 2, substantial transmission: Counties have four to seven daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 and a test positivity rate of 5% to 8%.
  • Tier 3, moderate transmission: Counties have 1-3.9 daily COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 2% to 4.9%.
  • Tier 4, minimal transmission: Counties have less than one daily COVID case per 100,000 and a test positivity rate of less than 2%.

San Francisco County is on Tier 2 of the state’s reopening plans. Under the guidelines, the county could reopen restaurants for in-person dining with restrictions and immediately allow hairdressers and barbers to work inside.

But in the city of San Francisco, plans announced Tuesday by Mayor London Breed and Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax reflect a more cautious approach in the decision to lift certain restrictions.

The city reopened outdoor pools, indoor malls, outdoor hair salons and barbershops and outdoor personal services with some restrictions on Monday. But indoor operations at barbershops and hair salons may not reopen until late September. Nail salons may reopen for indoor services, with modifications, at that point as well as indoor church services, with 25% of capacity for a maximum of 25 people.

Currently, Alpine and Modoc counties are the only two in the state that are on Tier 4. Most businesses are allowed to reopen in this tier, albeit with some limitations. Concert venues, convention centers, live theaters, nightclubs and theme parks remain closed statewide.

Los Angeles County currently has a 5.1% seven-day average for positive infections and a seven-day average of 12.4 cases per every 100,000 people. By comparison, the state’s average positivity rate during the same time frame is currently 5.9% and its average case rate per 100,000 people is 10.2.


A county must show progress in its positivity rate and case count over a three-week period before moving to a new tier. If a county has a case count and positivity rate that fall on two different tiers, the more stringent rules would apply. Such updates will take place on Tuesdays following the state’s review of a county’s metric.

Times staff writer Maura Dolan contributed to this report.