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L.A. County is easing COVID-19 restrictions again: What you need to know

Students gather books and belongings at El Camino Real Charter High School
Students gather books and belongings at El Camino Real Charter High School in April. Beginning Sept. 14, K-12 schools can offer in-school services for some students.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County on Wednesday began allowing additional reopenings as coronavirus cases continue to stabilize.

But the news came with a warning that COVID-19 remains a major threat and people must exercise caution.

“The virus is widespread in our community,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said. “The improvements we see do not mean victory. It is still easy to transmit, and often people who are contagious don’t have symptoms.”

Newsom takes a more cautious and stringent four-tier approach than his first reopening effort. ‘We’re going to be more stubborn this time,’ he says.

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Hair salons
Hair salons and barbershops will be allowed to operate indoors at 25% capacity if they practice social distancing, and if employees wear masks and follow other health-related mandates.

Barbershop and salon owners welcomed the reopening news, but some worried the 25% capacity rule was still too strict.

“Landlords won’t be reducing their leases by 75%,” said Fred Jones, the legal counsel for the Professional Beauty Federation of California.

Shopping malls
Malls remain closed for now. That sparked concern from mall business owners and employees who’ve struggled these past few months with enormous financial uncertainty.

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“We are anxious to fully reopen so we can put a considerable number of people back to work,” said Maria Mainville, director of strategic communications at Taubman, which owns the Beverly Center and operates several other shopping centers across the country.

Schools
Beginning Sept. 14, K-12 schools can offer in-school services for small groups of students with disabilities, students requiring instruction for English as a second language and students needing other specialized in-school services. Schools can offer services to these students as long as they fully implement the county’s reopening protocols.

The county said schools must maintain small, stable groups of no more than 12 students and two supervisors in order to ensure the safety of teachers and students. Schools must submit an operational plan to the county Department of Public Health and adhere to reopening protocols.

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L.A. County Office of Education Supt. Debra Duardo said Wednesday’s announcement was “very encouraging.” She added that “our students with special needs and English learners are among the most vulnerable during this time of distance learning.”

While the county’s rules are meant to prioritize safety, they don’t guarantee that a school system will be ready to open for these small classes. L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner has noted in past statements that he, like many district employees, would fall into a high-risk category and that he wouldn’t ask employees to take a risk he would be unwilling to take himself.

Another unknown on Wednesday was the extent to which a district’s labor groups would have to sign off on plans to bring students back on campus. L.A.'s teachers union — and unions in many other school systems — only recently completed an agreement on the rules for distance-only learning. Rules for a return to campus will require a separate round of negotiations.

Long Beach Unified, the second-largest district in L.A. County with 85 schools and roughly 70,000 students, is discussing whether it will be ready to open by Sept. 14 for students with special needs.


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