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L.A. County tightens COVID-19 restrictions today: What you need to know

People participate in a weekly tai chi class in Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park in Culver City.
People participate in a weekly tai chi class at Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park in Culver City on Sunday. Los Angeles County’s new stay-at-home order goes into effect Monday, but socially distanced outdoor recreation is still allowed.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Sweeping new restrictions go into effect Monday in Los Angeles County as officials battle an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases.

The rules, though less severe than the stay-at-home order initiated in the spring, are still the strongest restrictions in months.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said officials hope the more narrowly tailored restrictions will be sufficient to slow the spread of the coronavirus without having to give way to stricter measures. The county is “at a different place now than we were in March and April when we didn’t have the science around masking and distancing,” she said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a stay-at-home order affecting most of California.

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“Now that we do, it offers us a slightly different path forward,” she added. “But I’ll be honest: It only offers us a different path forward if everyone’s doing it.”

If people don’t follow safety precautions, she said, it’s possible the county could find itself back where it was in the early spring.

“If this doesn’t work, and two to three weeks from now we find ourselves in a worse place than we are, we’re going to have to go back and look at what else do we have as options, because we cannot continue to risk overwhelming the healthcare system,” Ferrer said.

There are more COVID patients in California hospitals than ever before, sparking a race to tamp down the increase before the healthcare system is overwhelmed.

Here is a rundown on the new restrictions:

PLAYGROUNDS: Playgrounds that are not part of a school or child-care center must close under the county’s new order.

OUTDOOR RECREATION: Beaches, trails and parks remain open, as do golf courses, tennis courts, pickleball courts, archery ranges, skate parks, bike parks and community gardens. Visitors must wear masks and stay at least six feet away from people from other households. Outdoor swimming pools that serve more than one household are restricted to regulated lap swimming, with one person per lane.

STORES: Essential retail stores are limited to 35% of capacity; for grocery stores, that is a reduction from the current cap of 50% capacity. Nonessential retail stores, malls, libraries and personal care establishments such as hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, piercing shops, tanning services and massage therapy are limited to 20% of capacity; previously, they operated at 25% capacity.

GATHERINGS: For the first time since early October, most gatherings among people from different households in L.A. County are again officially prohibited, with the exception of outdoor religious gatherings and outdoor political protests. This supersedes the previous rule that allowed for only small, outdoor gatherings of 15 or fewer people from up to three households, for a duration of no more than two hours.

As county health officials try to slow a worrisome coronavirus surge, holiday shopping and family gatherings could pose a danger as people tire of restrictions during a season many hoped would be a reprieve.

GYMS: Outdoor gyms and mini-golf, batting cages and go-kart racing establishment capacity remains unchanged at 50% of maximum capacity.

ZOOS/MUSEUMS: A 50% capacity limit applies to outdoor museums, galleries, zoos and aquariums. Previous rules allowed as many patrons as could be accommodated while maintaining six feet of distance from people from other households.

SCHOOLS/CHILD CARE: Schools and child-care rules are largely unchanged. Child-care centers, schools and day camps that have remained open under current protocols can continue operating with one new requirement: a mandatory closure for 14 days should an outbreak occur, which is defined as three or more cases over a two-week period.

CARDROOMS: Outdoor cardrooms, which under existing rules have been able to operate, must close.

RESTAURANTS: Under a different order that went into effect Wednesday, restaurants in most of L.A. County can offer only takeout and pickup service; outdoor dining areas were ordered shut Wednesday night, except in the city of Pasadena, which has its own independent public health department.


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