Reopening South Pasadena | Push for New Protocols

As cities like South Pasadena are anxious to move into Stage 3 of a Stage 4 recovery plan in face of the coronavirus, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors say they will apply for a state variance Wednesday after meeting certain criteria

GRAPHIC: LA County Public Health

South Pasadena hopes to reopen more businesses and easing restrictions following the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ announcement Tuesday it will apply for a state variance after certain state criteria has been met in face of the coronavirus.

County officials revised a health order that eases restrictions, allowing the resumption of in-store retail shopping along with the opening of churches, flea markets, drive-in theaters.

Los Angeles County is one of only 11 of the state’s 58 counties not receiving state variance approval. Counties meeting COVID-19 health standards can move further in to California’s 4-stage roadmap to recovery plan guiding businesses in a difficult economy.

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Hair salons and barbershops are open in most of California’s counties, but not yet in Los Angeles County where more than 47,822 cases of the virus have been reported, along with 2,143 deaths. By far, LA County is the leader in both cases in deaths among local counties. Ventura County has reported 912 cases, 30 deaths; San Bernardino County 4,365 cases, 176 deaths; Orange County 5,578 cases, 131 deaths and Riverside County 7,004 cases, 292 deaths.

LA County looks to reduce its restrictions despite confirming 1,843 new cases on Tuesday, the highest single-day total for region since the onset of the virus. Health officials say the uptick in cases is due to a backlog in testing results.

Like most of the state, South Pasadena is in Stage 2 of the roadmap opening. The state is slowly moving into Stage 3 as Gov. Gavin Newsom authorized the reopening of hair salons and barbershops and gave the green light for churches to start hosting in-person services.

Millions of businesses relied on the promise of the ‘PPP’, or Payroll Protection Program to cover payroll for up to 10 weeks for small businesses. Businesses who believed the message kept employees on payroll based on the governments messaging. Now, there’s nothing. This is catastrophic for many millions of small businesses nationwide – and a serious financial blow to our shops here in South Pasadena, causing layoffs, business closures, and some now shuttered-forever.

The County Board of Supervisors announced it will apply for a state variance Wednesday after listening to public testimony before going into closed session with county counsel to address the issue further. A motion was co-authored by Los Angeles County Supervisors’ Chair Kathryn Barger and Board Member Janice Hahn. “Los Angeles County has dedicated critical resources to meet the benchmark criteria to support our efforts to reopen, including ensuring adequate hospital capacity, increasing access and availability of testing and contact tracing, and implementing protections for vulnerable populations,” Barger said in a statement.

Added Supervisor Hilda L. Solis: “This is another big milestone for LA County as, step by step, we begin safely reopening our communities and economy. But reopening does not mean going back to business as usual. As long as community members follow safety rules, we can continue to make more progress. Our houses of worship can once again welcome people inside. Shopping malls and communal flea markets can get back to business. I am so proud of all the progress we’ve made to protect our loved ones from COVID-19. Given our resilience and collective sacrifice, we are ready to take the next step to reopen our economy.”

Going away from curbside only pickup, Barger said in-person shopping at retail establishments and in-person services at churches will resume immediately in the county. Strict required physical distancing and other health orders designed to protect the public would be mandated. Los Angeles County will now wait for state approval of the variance before in-restaurant dining and personal care businesses like salons and barbershops are allowed to reopen.

South Pasadena, like so many LA County cities, is anxious to reopen its doors of businesses, is following the guidelines established by the county.

During last week’s City Council meeting, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe talked about resiliency, how the city plans to reopen in face of the pandemic. It’s all part of the L.A. County’s road to recovery, a document that governs how quickly cities, like South Pasadena, can fully reopen.

The process will be occurring in four stages, requiring physical distancing, wearing of face coverings and infectious control practices.

DeWolfe said there will be timing between each stage for the purpose of evaluating what the impacts are of what was open in the prior phase, with multiple steps in each one.

“The strategy behind these phases is the lower risk activities open first, and the higher risk activities will open later,” she said.

A set of guidelines, pointed out DeWolfe, are the county’s framework to recovery. She stressed that the support for health and safety of workers, limiting in person interactions, while wearing masks and personal protective equipment would be paramount as part of Stage 2. Officials also recommend calling a store ahead of time to check if it is open.

LA County Roadmap to Recovery

Guidelines include:

• Ensuring appropriate physical distancing, limiting occupancy to ensure 6-foot distancing.

• Ensuring appropriate physical distancing – strict cleaning standards.

• Communication with the public – post clear signage to explain protocols.

• Ensuring equitable access for vulnerable populations – move services online as much as feasible.

With multiple high touch surfaces like elevator buttons, door handles, stair rails, copy machines, bathrooms and kitchens that could carry the disease, the city manager noted that offices currently are not considered safe, explaining that many City Hall employees are telecommuting from home.

Return to Operations

Stage 2:

  • Curbside retail, supporting manufacturing – open
  • Limited outdoor recreation – open
  • Curbside library service – soon
  • Museums, galleries, cultural centers – soon
  • Offices – soon
  • All permitted with strict protocols for social distancing,

Stage 3:

  • Personal service businesses (barber, nail salon)
  • Movie theaters, bowling alleys
  • Schools and colleges
  • Full access to libraries
  • Recreation programs, maybe limited to child care

Stage 4: TBD

  • Large entertainment and sports venues
  • Conventions
  • Concerts in the park, parades, etc.

Safety is First Priority

DeWolfe stressed the importance of protecting the public at all times, noting:

  • The threat still exists.
  • There’s still plenty of anxiety and fear
  • Precautions are taken seriously in face of the virus.
  • Every effort to ensure safety
  • Customers and Staff
  • Must feel safe

Reopening Challenges at City Hall

  • Limited space, can’t always accommodate 6-foot distance
  • Poor building ventilation
    • Outdated HVAC system
    • Modified over years, poor design
    • No windows in most areas
  • Lack of cleaning supplies
    • Cleaners, wipes still on back order
  • Small staff, concentrated locations
  • Child care issues for staff

Citywide Precautions

Social distancing:

  • Online meetings remain priority
  • In person services by appointment only
  • One member of the public at a time
  • Queue spaces outside
  • All pubic interactions will maintain social distancing at all times

Physical changes:

  • Masks mandatory for all employees and customers
  • Sneeze guards at all pubic counters
  • No publicly shared pens, sign-in sheets, etc.
  • Limit handling of paper submittals

  Online payments, drop box for plans

    • Signage at entry points – best practicesSanitizing Protocols
    • Hand sanitizer at all counters
    • Deep cleaning every night
    • Wiping of counters hourly
    • Daily cleaning of work spaces

  Reminders to wash hands

Sanitizing Protocols

  • Hand sanitizer at all counters
  • Deep cleaning every night
  • Wiping of counters hourly
  • Daily cleaning of work spaces
  • Reminders to wash hands often

Staff Policy Changes

Close shared break rooms and kitchens

  • Limit use of shared facilities such mail and copy
  • Relocate desks 6 feet apart if space allows or require alternating telecommuting
  • No group meetings unless social distancing is feasible
  • Supervisors to check wellness of staff daily
  • Symptomatic employees sent home