Houses of worship and retail stores in Long Beach can once more allow folks inside — with some restrictions.
Mayor Robert Garcia announced during a Wednesday afternoon, May 27, briefing that Long Beach, along with the rest of Los Angeles County, has lifted more of the closures that were intended to stem the further spread of the coronavirus.
The news came as officials announced six more residents had died of coronavirus-related causes, bringing the city's death toll to 81. There were also 61 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, identified in Long Beach; as of Wednesday, 1,666 infections had been reported throughout the crisis.
About 1,184 people have recovered, and 67 people were hospitalized with the virus as of Wednesday.
Still, officials said that even as the number of cases and deaths has grown, indicators such as hospital capacity, positive testing rate and availability of personal protective equipment have improved enough that Long Beach — along with LA County and Pasadena — sent an application to the state on Wednesday to lift more of its closures.
If approved, Long Beach could allow restaurants to reopen for dine-in services and for barber shops and hair salons to reopen as soon as this weekend, Garcia said.
But, for now, the city is focusing on reopening houses of worship and in-store retail in a safe way.
While all retailers can now allow shoppers inside, they must remain at 50% capacity and allow for 6 feet of physical distancing in between people.
Houses of worship, meanwhile, must remain at 25% capacity — or cap attendance at 100 people, whichever bar is lower.
For retailers in Long Beach, the news couldn't come soon enough — especially as Orange County opened back up for retail over the weekend, said Dede Rossi, the Belmont Shore Business Association's executive director.
"We just see all this stuff on social media saying, 'I'm going to take all of my business to Orange County,'" she said. "What are you supposed to say to that?"
Rossi said she's been advising business owners in the neighborhood to "just get ready in case they say we get to open tomorrow.
"I feel like a lot of them have already kind of" prepared, she added, in terms of allowing for physical distancing and, in some cases, installing plexiglass.
"So they're ready," Rossi said.
Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, said in a statement that allowing retailers to reopen their shops provides "much-needed relief to downtown business owners, their workers, and the greater Long Beach economy.
"While obstacles still remain, including the financial challenge of operating at limited capacity," he said, "the DLBA is continuing to assist downtown stakeholders through the recovery process."
Garcia also said Wednesday that some office spaces — along with small pools in apartment complexes — could also reopen.
But if companies have found ways to allow employees to telecommute rather than going into the office, Garcia said, they are encouraged to continue operating virtually.
"We think that's a healthy way to keep folks safe and keep the economy working," he said. "Telecommute if you can, but offices can begin to open."
As different parts of the economy continue opening up, Garcia said, it will be important to continue to take precautions to prevent the virus from spreading.
To that end, he also announced that anyone — even people who are asymptomatic and aren't considered essential workers — can be tested for COVID-19 starting this weekend at Cabrillo High School.
But even as testing becomes more readily available, Kelly Colopy, Long Beach's Health and Human Services director, said the precautions that have been important throughout the pandemic — staying at least 6 feet from others, wearing a face covering and washing your hands — will be even more necessary as people get out and about.
"You want to act as if everyone around you has COVID, or that you do," she said. "If you act from that perspective, we'll do much much better moving forward as a city. The virus is still out there.
"We're all in this together," she added. "Please do not undo all the progress that we've made."