Public health officials say data shows L.A. County has flattened the curve, putting it on par with surrounding counties that have already been granted variances.
The state issues them based on a series of criteria, such as coronavirus case rates and deaths, availability of hospital space, testing capacity and ability to trace contacts of confirmed patients.
"If we see -- through the process of target engagement -- numbers that persist and things that get out of control, we will direct local health officials to put a dimmer switch back on," Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a virtual briefing, "and begin to toggle back, put the brakes on in terms of the modifications."
With the state on Friday granting the variance,the county released a statement outlining guidelines for the resumption of dine-in service at restaurants and for hair salons to reopen. The required guidelines include physical distancing measures and screening employees and customers for symptoms.
Everyone must wear face coverings in salons and barbershops, stylists may only serve one client at a time, and clients are urged to use credit cards and no-contact payment systems.
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At restaurants, outdoor seating and curbside pickup must be prioritized, reservations will be encouraged, and diners must wear face coverings when not eating, according to county officials.
"This is a significant step toward revitalizing our economy, particularly supporting our local businesses, who often rely on foot traffic and thrive because of in-store shopping," Kathryn Barger, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, said at a news conference. "Drive-in theaters, flea markets and swap meets can reopen," along with pools operated by apartment complexes and homeowners associations, she said.
On Friday, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the "L.A. Al Fresco" program which will offer temporary, no-cost allowances for restaurants to provide outdoor dining on sidewalks and private parking lots in Los Angeles. More information about the program can be found here.
Nail salons, spa services, gyms and fitness centers, beach piers, indoor entertainment venues, indoor museums, and bar areas at restaurants remain closed.
Other Southern California counties, including Orange, Riverside and San Diego, received variances last week, and restaurants were permitted to open there with a series of health restrictions - such as limited capacity, required social distancing and face coverings for staff and customers.
Hair salons have also been allowed to reopen in those counties, with restrictions on capacity and services. Restrictions generally blocked the salons from offering any services that require workers to touch customers' faces.
The county remains home to about half of the state's confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths. But health officials said this week that even though more cases and deaths are being reported, the rates are dropping, along with the number of people hospitalized on a daily basis.
"We feel very confident, and we feel very confident because all of the work everybody has already done to get us here,'' L.A. County public health director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. "Hospitalizations are down. Deaths are down. The number of cases is up but that's a good thing ... because it means a lot more people are getting tested, but our positivity rate is also down.
However, Ferrer cautioned that not adhering to public health guidelines could prompt a second spike in cases.
"We do have to all go carefully, and by that I mean we all have to be diligent about doing whatever we can do to protect each other. But yes, I feel confident we're moving forward in a manner that's very respectful of the resources we have here and the need, in fact, for us to be on a reopening, safer-in-the-community-safer-at-work journey, but we have to be on this journey together.''
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The county Department of Public Health on Thursday announced 48 more fatalities from COVID-19, although six of those deaths were actually reported Wednesday afternoon by health officials in Long Beach. The new fatalities lifted the county's death toll to 2,241.
County health officials also announced another 1,094 confirmed cases of the illness, while Long Beach and Pasadena combined to add 86 more, bringing the countywide total to 49,860.
The new cases were announced as more businesses took advantage of relaxed health restrictions and began welcoming customers inside.
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In line with state regulations, L.A. County issued a revised health order on Tuesday, allowing retail establishments to resume in-store shopping by customers. It also cleared the way for store inside indoor shopping malls to reopen, along with offices, flea markets, swap meets, drive-in movie theaters and houses of worship.
The loosening of restrictions prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic was expressed clearly by L.A. County, which changed the name of its health officer order from "Safer at Home'' to "Safer at Work and in the Community.''
The order, however, continues to require residents to wear face coverings when interacting with people outside their own households. It also calls for continued physical distancing. Reopened businesses also must adhere to strict safety protocols, requiring face coverings, limited capacity inside stores and hand-washing and sanitizing stations.
City News Service contributed to this report.