bike path

A bike rider ducks under the caution tape closing the beach bike path on Saturday.

Mayor Robert Garcia announced Wednesday afternoon that some small businesses and city facilities will reopen — with restrictions — this Friday.

The modifications of stay at home and business closure orders come as reports of new coronavirus cases flatten out. Long Beach reported no new deaths Wednesday.

Garcia said the city’s actions follow directions from Gov. Gavin Newsom, who said Monday that he was opening Phase Two of his recovery plan, allowing cities and counties to gradually reopen. Los Angeles County released its own recovery plan Wednesday, listing the same Friday openings announced by Garcia.

Small retail businesses will be able to reopen in a phased way, following guidelines including curbside pickup of purchases. A definitive list of requirements and eligible businesses will be available some time today, Thursday, at the city’s website.

On the outdoor recreation front, park trails and city golf courses will reopen Friday, again with significant restrictions. City parks will reopen (parking lots open Monday, May 11), but only for walking or running on trails. Playgrounds remain closed and team sports are still banned.

On Monday, the city’s tennis centers will reopen for play, and the bike and walking paths on the beach will be available for use. The beach itself remains closed to people sunbathing or playing volleyball or other sports.

“The reason we’re waiting to reopen until Monday is because over the weekend we will be doing a complete cleaning,” Garcia said. “We will clean the restrooms and other facilities completely.”

Long Beach has reported 791 positive cases of COVID-19 since testing began. The death toll currently is 38, and 49 people are currently hospitalized. Of the 38 who have died, 31 have been connected to long-term care faclities.

“We will continue to have hospitalizations, and we will continue to have deaths,” Garcia said. “It’s a matter now of how we prepare to handle these things.”

In response to a question from the Facebook audience watching the afternoon briefing, Garcia said it remains uncertain when churches will be allowed to start hosting physical services again.

“For people of faith, and I consider myself one … closure of the churches is frustrating,” Garcia said. “It’s just not allowed because of the physical distancing. We will lift it as soon as we’re able, but we’re just not there yet.”

Tuesday, the City Council met with a conference call, and heard of the expected fiscal impact of the fight against the coronavirus and COVID-19.

The economic recovery that will begin once things open up will have challenges, with the city facing at least two years of serious cash shortfalls, which are expected to bring hiring freezes and shutdowns of any non-essential capital improvement projects.

The shortfalls, City Manager Tom Modica said, will be larger than originally thought.

Now, fiscal year 2020 will face an estimated shortfall of between $25 million and $41 million, according to the city staff report. In fiscal year 2021, shortfalls are now expected to range from $9 million to $16 million, according to the report.

Staff reporter Donna Littlejohn contributed to this story.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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