Los Angeles County—the most populous county in the United States—is preparing for a gradual reopening, along with the rest of California. Though the COVID-19 outbreak has not yet been completely eliminated, there are many reasons for Angelinos to rejoice.
“With vaccine supply increasing and by expanding eligibility to more Californians, the light at the end of the tunnel continues to get brighter,” said Governor Gavin Newsom in a recent statement.
After nearly a year of business shutdowns and other restrictions, Californians across the state are excited to continue moving closer to living their normal lives. Over the past year, 3.7 million Californians have tested positive for COVID-19 (just under ten percent of the state’s population) and, sadly, about 58,000 have died.
Los Angeles County has accounted for about 1.2 million total cases and 23,000 deaths. However, along with the positive news regarding the vaccine, the number of active cases in both the state and the county have begun to gradually decrease. Daily deaths have also significantly decreased, dropping from a statewide peak of 750 in January to about 200 in March.
The battle against COVID-19 has been difficult, but all signs indicate that things are moving in a positive direction.
Increased Vaccine Availability
The clearest reason for the State of California’s reopening is that vaccines are becoming increasingly accessible for people of all ages. Following orders from Governor Newsom, all Californians age 16 and older will be able to access the vaccine beginning on April 15. Individuals 50 and older can access the vaccine as soon as April 1, regardless of their occupation of health conditions.
As of March 27, California is performing slightly better than the average state in terms of vaccine distribution. About 28 percent of the state’s population have received at least one portion of the vaccine, whereas about 14 percent have received the entire vaccine.
So far, more than 21 million vaccine doses have been delivered to California, far more than any other state (California also has the largest population of any state). Vaccine doses continue to pore into the state of California, helping to continue paving the way to a total reopening.
Businesses Plan to Reopen
Last March, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti closed down all bars and restaurants. Governor Newsom issued the nation’s first statewide shutdown orders, prompting other businesses, such as movie theatres, gyms, salons, and more to also close their doors.
While there was a brief wave of optimism and reopening last June, the shutdowns were quickly reinstated. Grocery stores remained open, though mask mandates were strictly enforced. Some businesses, like restaurants, could partially operate (offering takeout and other alternatives), but the economic impact caused by the shutdown was undoubtedly severe.
Over the course of the next four to five weeks, businesses of all kinds in Los Angeles are planning to reopen. The reopening will be gradual, with some businesses limited to 25 percent of their normal operating capacity.
Both patrons and dedicated business owners are excited to see these gradual changes. As business owner Greg Laemmle told Fox Business, “It’s amazing how much things have changed during the week from, ‘We know opening is coming soon’ to ‘Go ahead and open.” Despite his generally upbeat outlook, Laemmle still worries about some of the logistics surrounding reopening.
Throughout California’s well-known entertainment industry, museums, cinemas, zoos, and aquariums can all now operate at 25 capacity. Additionally, large events, like sporting events, have also been given the green light to host some fans. All five of California’s professional baseball teams (Dodgers, Angels, A’s, Giants, and Padres) will allow limited seating for opening day, a stark departure from last year’s fan-less MLB season.
Some businesses are waiting for increased capacity before they begin operating again. Others are waiting to complete structural changes, such as the Japanese American National Museum who wants to upgrade its ventilation system before allowing guests. The desire for more personal protection gear may also cause delays.
The Return to Normalcy
Both media pundits and ordinary individuals have speculated what the “return to normalcy” might look like. After a year of shutdowns, it can be difficult for individuals to imagine living their lives exactly as they did before.
In some cases, the changes sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak might be permanent. For example, at the beginning of the outbreak, millions of Californians switched from working in a traditional office environment to working from home. Even once all restrictions are lifted and people are comfortable returning to their workplace, many people plan on continuing to work from home full-time or at least part-time.
The shift to working from home may ultimately impact California’s competitive retail and office real estate markets. Within the residential real estate market, new homeowners are expected to request office space or additional bedrooms, even more than before.
The pace at which things return to “normal” will also largely depend on when students can return to in-person learning full time. Following a year of remote and distanced learning, Governor Newsom and California legislators have committed 2 billion USD to reopen, with an emphasis on getting the youngest students to return to schools first.
It can be very difficult to know when things will begin operating exactly as they were before. Choosing a specific, inflexible date may also cause issues (such as non-compliance with mask ordinances or false expectations), which is why the government and other individuals involved are taking a cautious, “slow and steady” approach to the process as a whole. In the words of Governor Newsom, “We are not out of the woods quite yet.”
However, even keeping these things in mind, it is clear that California will continue its gradual movement towards reopening and will continue the trek towards normalcy, as long as a large spike in cases does not occur. For California business owners, homeowners, and other individuals, this should be considered very welcomed news.