L.A. County to ease some coronavirus rules, though a wide reopening remains elusive

Although Los Angeles County remains rooted in the most restrictive tier of California’s coronavirus reopening road map, officials this week announced plans to relax some requirements on businesses to bring the county’s standards in line with wider state guidelines.

a group of people sitting on a bench: Adan Gutierrez, left, Ramon Ayala and Vicente Fernandez enjoy a beer outside Grand Central Market in Los Angeles on June 30. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

© (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
Adan Gutierrez, left, Ramon Ayala and Vicente Fernandez enjoy a beer outside Grand Central Market in Los Angeles on June 30. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The changes — expected this week — will allow family entertainment centers to open outdoors; eliminate a requirement that customers at wineries and breweries make reservations; and remove the food requirement for wineries.

“I hope this provides much-needed relief and respite for residents who are looking for some activities outside of their homes,” Kathryn Barger, chairwoman of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, said during a briefing Wednesday.

“These updates will also bring more employees back to work,” she said — a pivotal development in a region where the unemployment rate has been estimated at 16%.

Barger also said county schools are in line to welcome back more students for in-person instruction.

According to the supervisor, schools have been allowed to bring up to 10% of students back on campus at a time if the students have special needs, such as those with disabilities or who are learning English.

“We will now increase to 25% capacity for high-needs students so more children and youth can have access to their teachers and the on-site support systems that are so critical for their growth and for their education,” Barger said.

It is unclear when that change will go into effect. But as L.A. County remains in Tier 1 of the state’s four-tier reopening plan — also called the purple tier, which indicates widespread risk of community coronavirus transmission — campuses cannot reopen for all students.

The county’s spot in the state’s most stringent tier also prevents wider economic reopenings. Under the purple category, many businesses and public facilities either cannot operate indoors or can do so only at a strictly limited capacity.

Counties land in the purple tier if they have more than seven new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people per day or a test positivity rate of more than 8%.

As of Wednesday, L.A. County’s case rate remained above the threshold required to move down into the red tier.

“I think many of us are discouraged that we haven’t yet reduced our case rate enough to move to Tier 2,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. “I do want to note that we do have the tools in hand to drive transmission rates down in our communities. Not only do we want to eventually progress into less restrictive tiers, but we want to be able to continue to keep businesses and institutions open.”

Ferrer announced 33 new COVID-19 deaths in the county, raising the total toll to 6,944, as well as 510 new cases for a total of 290,486.

But she cautioned that “some significant

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Melbourne ready to ease rules with 1 new case

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s Victoria state has reported just one new case of COVID-19 and no deaths as the city of Melbourne moves closer towards the easing of some lifestyle restrictions.

The state’s coronavirus death toll remains at 816 and the Australian total is 904.

Melbourne residents are expecting COVID-19 restrictions to be eased on Sunday but it is unclear how much freedom will be regained.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews has indicated the changes would be more “in the social space,” prompting pleas from business operators for relief from restrictions that once included an overnight curfew.

Current restrictions include a two-hour exercise limit within 5 kilometers (3 miles) of work or home and mandatory face masks covering the mouth and nose when a person leaves their home.

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— Qingdao, a coastal city in eastern China, has completed coronavirus testing for its 11 million residents following an outbreak and found no new infections so far. As of Friday, the 10.9 million samples came back negative. Xue Qingguo, Qingdao’s deputy mayor, told state broadcaster CCTV that the risk of community transmission “is basically eliminated.” The citywide testing was ordered after 13 people were infected in China’s first locally transmitted cases in over two months. The source of the outbreak was traced to two dock workers who had tested positive for the virus in September but did not exhibit any symptoms at first. They had visited a hospital in Qingdao and were sent to a CAT scan room, which was not disinfected properly afterward and led to the infection of other patients, according to health officials. Health Commission Director Sui Zhenhua and Deng Kai, president of Qingdao’s thoracic hospital to which the cases have been linked, have been placed under investigation in connection with the outbreak. On Saturday, the National Health Commission reported 13 new imported cases. China has reported 4,634 deaths among 85,659 confirmed cases.

— India reported 62,212 new cases in the past 24 hours, raising its total to more than 7.4 million and continuing a downward trend. The Health Ministry on Saturday also registered 837 additional fatalities, taking the death toll to 112,998. The worst-hit western Maharashtra state accounted for nearly 36% of total fatalities. According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. It is recording an average of around 70,000 cases daily so far this month. But some experts say India’s figures may not be reliable because of poor reporting and inadequate health infrastructure. India is also relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests. Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season beginning later this month. Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told reporters on Friday that the next two months were particularly crucial because of the winter season and festivals. New Delhi is also bracing

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