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Editorial: How long will L.A.'s coronavirus rules last? That all depends on you

 People exercise while wearing face masks at La Cienega Park
People exercise while wearing face masks at La Cienega Park during the coronavirus crisis on Wednesday.
(Los Angeles Times)

A ripple of despair flowed through Los Angeles County this week after Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told county supervisors the current “Safer at Home” order, set to expire Friday, would continue for three more months.

Immediately, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s phone blew up with calls, texts and emails from panicked people wondering if it was really true. Would Angelenos be forced to remain in quarantine until August?

The answer, it turns out, is no, not really. Phew!

“Los Angeles is not going to be on lockdown for three months,” Garcetti assured city residents Wednesday evening. What he and Ferrer later explained was that some of the restrictions in the “Safer at Home” order will continue for all L.A. County cities except Pasadena and Long Beach, which have their own public health departments.

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Other restrictions will be lifted when the county sees a reduction of COVID-19 cases and deaths, and if its healthcare system has adequate capacity and supplies. The more assiduously the public complies with the county’s order, the faster that day will come.

It’s too bad that the message was garbled and unnecessarily upset people, because the reality is that the new open-ended pandemic order for L.A. County issued Wednesday is something to celebrate. By lifting some of the harshest restrictions and allowing many more people to go back to work and play, it marks the beginning of a new, more hopeful phase.

The new rules hew closely to those laid out for the state by Gov. Gavin Newsom last week. All retail businesses except for those in enclosed malls are now cleared to reopen for delivery and curbside pickup. Many manufacturers that had been deemed nonessential are being allowed to restart operations, assuming they can do so with proper distancing between workers and infection control procedures.

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Angelenos can once again enjoy time at the beach, hike on the city’s many trails and hit some balls at golf courses and tennis courts, albeit with new rules in place to limit community spread of the coronavirus. Granted, everyone will have to wear face coverings outside. But — more good news for the city of Los Angeles — Garcetti said Wednesday that the city would be closing some streets to cars to make room for people to walk, run and ride bikes safely in their neighborhoods.

Things look even brighter in other parts of California. Eighteen of the state’s 58 counties, mostly in rural areas of Northern California, have been cleared to go further and reopen dine-in restaurants, schools, office building and shopping malls.

Los Angeles is not one of those counties and probably won’t be ready for those steps for a while yet. When that day might come is not clear, but this much is certain: It depends greatly on whether Angelenos have the fortitude and patience to continue their vigilance for a bit longer.


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