Nonessential businesses to remain closed through May 15

Restaurants, bars and other businesses deemed nonessential will remain closed through at least May 15 as Long Beach extends its stay-at-home order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, city officials announced Friday.

The plan for Long Beach aligns with Los Angeles County’s announcement on Friday that it is extending its stay-at-home order through May 15. County health officials said that while physical-distancing requirements have dramatically slowed the spread of coronavirus, lifting them now could lead to an astounding 96% of the population being infected by August.

“If you were to reduce physical distancing to the pre-health officer order levels, virtually all individuals in Los Angeles County, 95.6% per the model, would be infected by the pandemic by Aug. 1, 2020,” Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county’s director of health services said Friday. “That number is starkly reduced, down to about 30%, if we maintain the current levels of physical distancing.”

The county and Long Beach implemented health orders in mid-March, requiring people to stay at home as much as possible and to avoid all public gatherings. The orders also shuttered nonessential businesses, leaving only retailers such as grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and other outlets open.

In addition to the longer stay-at-home period, officials announced new requirements for face coverings in public.

In a news conference Friday, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said the period could last well beyond the May deadline.

“We could expect that if things don’t improve, that date could be extended,” he said.

Garcia was joined by Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn who noted that the county’s case rate is slower this week compared to last week due to strict social distancing orders, but more time is needed to slow the spread and avoid overwhelming the hospital system.

“The good news is because of what you’ve been doing, our efforts are working and we really are flattening this curve,” Hahn said. “But we have to keep doing it; we can’t be complacent.”

Cases in Long Beach climbed passed 300 this week, with 9 deaths linked to the virus. The overall number of coronavirus cases rose to 316 on Friday, up from 303 on Thursday, as testing becomes more widely available.

Of those, more than 41 residents are hospitalized and about 140 have recovered. Of the nine deaths, six are associated with long-term care facilities and all of the individuals had pre-existing health conditions.

Lon Angeles County on Friday reported 475 more cases of coronavirus, bringing the county’s total to 8,430. The county also reported 18 more deaths, bringing the county’s total to 241.

In a conference call Friday morning with local business owners, Garcia said the city has ramped up its support for local businesses through loans and other programs, and is working with state and federal partners on other forms of financial assistance.

The city also announced new requirements for masks for food workers.

“We know how difficult this is. This is your livelihood and you family’s livelihood,” he said to business owners. “Seeing you guys struggling and workers struggling is painful. It’s a terrible situation and we’re working as hard as we can to keep people safe and end this as soon as possible.”

Restaurants will still be allowed to provide take-out food, but dining rooms will remained closed. The city will also continue to allow popup markets in local restaurants.

“Folks should expect that dining rooms aren’t going to be back open in the next few weeks,” Garcia said.

Long Beach Economic Development Director John Keisler in the conference call said the city on its website has various loan opportunities for small businesses. Businesses with five employees or less, for example, can apply for micro loans of up to $10,000 that can come within five days, he said.

“We can get them out faster than the federal government,” he said.

Some of those new requirements mirror ones that took effect in many individual cities, including Los Angeles, on Friday.

While the public health orders will remain in place until May 15, officials could not provide any insight on whether they will actually end at that point, saying they will simply have to reevaluate the situation at that time.

The orders, however, could easily extend into the summer months depending on the virus’ rate of spread.

For more information visit www.Long Beach.gov/covid19.

— City News Service contributed to this report 

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Kelly Puente is a general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. Her prolific reporting has taken her all over Southern California—even to the small Catalina Island town of Two Harbors. She is a Tiki mug collector and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].
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