L.A. City and County COVID-19 Weekly Update (September 14, 2020)

CA Health and Government COVID-19 Guidance: Week in Review

Forward Progress as We Enter Fall

Coming out of the holiday weekend, Los Angeles County and City officials were hopeful that the region would continue to make progress in containing COVID-19. The County’s metrics continue to move in the right direction, including downward trends in infections, test positivity and hospitalizations. As of Friday, September 11, 2020, rates were approximately 50% below their mid-July levels on all indicators. While the County remains in the Tier 1 category of the state’s Blueprint, we anticipate an update to this status as soon as Tuesday, September 15, 2020, or the following week.

However, at briefings last week, County officials stressed the potential for backsliding. LA County Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer and Supervisor Hilda Solis noted that the County saw spikes in infection rates approximately three weeks after the July 4th holiday weekend, and cautioned that we could see similar spikes following the Labor Day holiday weekend. County officials noted, however, that compliance with the Health Officer Order appeared to be better during the recent holiday weekend and remained optimistic that the region can avoid a similar spike in September.

Enforcement

In recent days, the County appears to have stepped up enforcement of the Health Officer Order and COVID-19-related health regulations. In a press release issued on Thursday, September 10, 2020, the County Department of Public Health noted that it had conducted 331 inspections over the holiday weekend, and while compliance with Health Officer Order regulations was largely good, “gyms and hotels need to work on ensuring that their patrons are wearing face coverings and many restaurants need to work on physical distancing.”

The release also announced a new, no-cost program for business owners in the County called the COVID-19 Safety Compliance Certificate Program:

The program is a no-cost online training course that educates business owners on the essentials of the County Health Officer’s Orders and what they need to do to ensure that their business practices are aligned and in compliance with infection control and physical distancing requirements. After completing the training, businesses will receive a COVID-19 Safety Compliance Certificate that can be posted on storefronts. The training will be available in 13 languages and can be accessed online through the Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 website.

At the state level, enforcement has also increased. On September 9, 2020, California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) announced that it had issued the largest ever COVID-19 safety fine to Overhill Farms in Vernon, imposing penalties of $222,075 for Overhill Farms and $214,080 for JobSource North America, the company’s temporary employment agency. The companies were cited for failing to install barriers or implement procedures to maintain appropriate distance between employees, and for failing to investigate COVID-19-related employee deaths in their facilities as required.

Education

Despite progress on COVID-19 metrics, LA County is not moving toward reopening schools any time soon.

According to the Los Angeles Times, during a call on Thursday, September 10, 2020, with school district leaders, LA County Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced that schools in the County will remain closed at least until November. Per the article, “no campus in Los Angeles County will be allowed to reopen to all K-12 students until at least November, although schools can still offer small in-person classes for students with special needs at no more than 10% of capacity at one time.”

The County is permitting schools to provide limited in-person instruction for small cohorts of specific students, consistent with state guidance, such as students with special needs and those requiring instruction for English as a Second Language (ESL).

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