Retailers should be allowed to open doors to customers, with safety protocols, supervisor says

Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn is asking the governor to level the playing field by letting non-essential retailers open their doors to customers just as big-box stores have been able to do, as long as they follow all of the same safety protocols.

“If these measures are working to keep essential retail businesses like Target, Home Depot, and Costco open and safe, they can certainly be applied to all retailers,” Hahn said in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday.

Health orders issued across the state have unintentionally created winners and losers in this new “pandemic economy,” she said, just because some retailers sell groceries and other essential supplies, in addition to non-essential goods.

Retailers can reopen, but only for curbside pickup. Many of these are small businesses that are ill-equipped for online orders, Hahn said.

Hahn’s request comes the same day that the county’s death toll eclipsed 2,000 and positive cases in the county topped 42,000. However, the county has also set a tentative mark of July 4 for a full re-opening.

On Thursday county health officials announced 46 new deaths and 1,204 new cases of COVID-19.

Supervisor Hilda Solis said she did not support Hahn’s proposal when asked about it during the county’s Thursday briefing. Solis said she had just learned of Hahn’s letter to the governor but said that government leaders understood that some stores would be allowed to remain open because they sold essential goods.

She had cautioned that the economic recovery of the county could not come at the cost of more lives lost.

“It looks like we’re improving—I wish that we could speed things up—but i would be very remiss to say that [I support it] because we have to adhere to the rules prescribed by the governor,” Solis said.

Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, declined to address the issue, but said earlier in the briefing that the county was trending in the right direction in regard to deaths per 7 days and hospitalizations per 3 days, both of which experienced declines of over 10% since last week.

“This is very good news and it shows that what we’re doing has resulted in a reduced numbers of infections compared to had we not taken any actions,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said that 76% of the cases recorded in the county are among those 18-65 years old, which makes up the majority of the workforce. She cautioned that as more people return to work it’s important for the guidelines in place to be followed because workers who aren’t feeling sick can still transmit the virus.

The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that county officials are optimistic that the transmission rate has lowered since the early outbreak of COVID-19 in the region and now the average sick person is infecting just under 1 other person as opposed to over 3 people in previous months.

This has sparked optimism that new infections would gradually wind down. However, large cities like Los Angeles and Long Beach are far from meeting the state’s markers for speeding up the opening of more businesses like restaurants and other retailers.

If the rate remains constant, it could mean about 9% of the county could be infected by December. If it jumped to 1.5, nearly 44% of the county could be infected by December, according to data presented by county health officials Wednesday.

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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