Los Angeles is suddenly moving quickly toward a full reopening of its local economy.
After being one of the first counties in the U.S. to go into a lockdown in March amid the coronavirus, what county officials deemed a “safer at home” mandate for citizens, and health officials for the county saying earlier this month that plans were being based on lockdown going through July, hair salons and barbershops could reopen as soon as today. Restaurants are also approved for reopening of in-person dining, with restrictions, expected to be based on limiting capacity in order to maintain physical distancing and masks, like those in place for retail.
The county submitted an application for reopening approval to the state earlier this week, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Gov. Gavin Newson said on Tuesday that he would allow counties that “self-attested” to meeting criteria for reopening services, like a decrease in new cases of the coronavirus, availability of testing and hospital capacity, to reopen more fully. With the state approval of the application, L.A. county has met the criteria, despite being the region in California with the highest rate of infection and deaths from the virus. The county is nearing 50,000 total cases of the virus and more than 2,200 deaths.
L.A. has yet to make public any guidelines for the reopening of hair and barber services, or in-person dining, so it is likely that widespread reopening of such businesses will not be immediate. A representative of the County Board of Supervisors and the mayor’s office could not be immediately reached for comment.
It was only two weeks ago that county health officials said their planning was being based on the expectation of the lockdown mandating that people stay at home whenever possible would stretch through July, if not beyond. The sudden reopening of hair salons and barbers — high contact services that require closeness and touch — marks an about-face from that planning.
It’s likely being spurred by the economic reality of the shutdown hitting city officials. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said on Friday that he was joining a group of mayors asking the U.S. Congress for $250 billion in relief from the economic impact of shutting down to stop the spread of the coronavirus and costs incurred for things like virus testing, PPE and economic aid given to people and businesses at the local level.
“We’re delivering a clear message to Congress: cities have led the COVID-19 response — but we can’t do it alone,” Garcetti wrote on Twitter. “We need more federal action to keep saving lives and livelihoods.”
The shutdown has severely impacted California’s economy as well, leaving the state with a budget deficit of $54 billion, when in February the state had its biggest surplus ever of $21 billion. Earlier this month, Newsom formally asked the federal government for $1 trillion in aid for his state, as well as for the states of Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Nevada.
L.A.’s move toward the reopening of hair and barber services comes the same week that it allowed in-store retail to reopen, as Newsom sanctioned the reopening state-wide on Tuesday. Still, the state and L.A. have yet to say that the coronavirus lockdown is technically lifted, nor is a state of emergency enacted more than two months ago.
Most other counties in the state have already opened on a larger scale than L.A., which has taken a more cautious approach reopening and giving citizens more reasons to come out of their homes. Newsom said Tuesday that all but 11 of California’s 58 counties had been approved to reopen more fully, including hair services and even in-person dining at restaurants. Things like mask-wearing for employees and customers and limited capacity inside stores and restaurants are supposed to be required.
State guidelines for the reopening of hair and barbershops are not yet available but expected in the coming days.
Nail salons are so far excluded from this further loosening. Newsom said conversations are “advancing” for the nail and personal-care industry, but formal guidelines for reopening “require more specificity and nuance in order to satisfy health experts, the guidance that’s foundational in our efforts.”