County sets July 4 as reopening date

FILE PHOTO Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger speaks at the Hyatt Regency Valencia. Eddy Martinez/The Signal.
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Los Angeles County has targeted Independence Day as its goal to “safely” reopen countywide, officials said Tuesday. 

To get there, the process will be a slow and gradual one based on data and science, as the county treks through its roadmap toward a full return, albeit with safety precautions amid an ongoing pandemic that has not yet seen a vaccine, county officials said. 

“We’re aiming for that date. We have to do a lot of things right, so that we can actually get to that date of July 4 and have lots of different sectors reopened,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s Department of Public Health director. “I think the reality is that we are going to really aim together to get there as quickly as possible, but we’re going to pay attention to the data and we’re going to pay attention to the science.”

The target date was announced after an Economic Resiliency Task Force meeting with county Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose 5th District includes the Santa Clarita Valley, and business leaders on Tuesday, where they identified how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected multiple industries. 

“The economic and sociological impacts created by the COVID-19 shutdown have hurt our vulnerable populations the most,” said Barger in a prepared statement. “The county, in partnership with our task force members and key stakeholders, is prepared to move forward with recommendations that ensure the safety and well-being of employees and customers while safeguarding public health.”

The July 4 mark indicates a goal of the full or staged reopening of retail, restaurants and malls. Sector leaders said many businesses and employees will be impacted over the next few weeks, according to a news release from Barger’s office. 

Announcement of the date has no influence on the city of Santa Clarita’s goal to reopen quicker than other local governments and starting a coalition with the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, said Mayor Cameron Smyth on Tuesday. 

“While July 4 may provide some target, asking businesses to remain closed for another six weeks is really going to be a challenge, particularly when you are going to see other counties opening up as soon as June 1,” he said, adding the city still awaits a response from the county counsel about its request to expedite its own reopening. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday counties will be able to move deeper into the second phase of reopening on their own timelines, provided certain benchmarks are achieved. L.A. County has not yet seen a decline in its COVID-19 numbers as have other rural areas authorized to allow for additional business sectors and services to resume.

“As the governor noted, particularly around the positivity rate here in L.A. County, for us it just started to drop to about 9%. The state has set a threshold of the positivity rate needing to be at 8% for over a week. So, we’re not quite there yet,” said Ferrer. 

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