We’re Not Red Yet: Re-Openings Get a Cautious Take from Board of Supervisors, County Health

While the process of re-opening is looking hopeful, there are still questions, contradictions, and the vivid memory of the last time we moved in this direction. While Culver City looks towards pandemic restrictions being lifted, the authorities of Los Angeles County are looking at data and setting standards. 

With the county’s move to the red tier with reach, there are still two million vaccines to be distributed before that standard is met. Los Angeles County Public Health Department Director Barbara Ferrer spoke to the Board of Supervisors on Monday, March 8, 2021, noting that falling rates of transmission have twice before prompted widespread re-openings, only to be followed by even worse outbreaks culminating in the winter surge that claimed thousands of lives.

Ferrer told the Board, “We will run the risk of delaying the [end of the] pandemic if we don’t continue to reduce transmission while our vaccination numbers pick up. This is especially true during this time of the year when students are on break and we prepare to celebrate spring holidays.”

“I believe that clarity and consistency leads to the highest rates of compliance,”Supervisor Kathryn Barger said, emphasizing she wanted to avoid having LA County residents traveling back and forth to other counties with lesser restrictions. Her focus seemed to be on the obvious threat of spreading infection through the southland, with the still very significant risk of infection being ignored by those who simply want to bypass government rules.

Ferrer stood her ground  and warned that while the rate had declined, it could easily rocket right back up if measures were dropped prematurely. 

“I would say March, the early part of April, this is where where we have to be extraordinarily cautious,” she said. “Because we’ve been here before. We’ve been here with travel around Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’ve seen what happens around holidays if we’re not really careful. … We’ve got to keep everybody alive right now so they can get vaccinated and stay alive. So this would be a time for extreme caution.”

She noted the spread of variants of virus that causes COVID-19, which which have been noted to have a higher rate of transmission from contact to contact. The variant first recognized in the UK has been on the rise in Los Angeles County, and is now believed to be responsible for 10% of all COVID cases in the county.

The drop in vaccine supply will coincide with next week’s expansion of vaccine eligibility to people aged 16 and older with an underlying health condition that puts them at risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. With an estimated one to two million people  about to be eligible for vaccine, without that much additional  vaccine available, Ferrar offered “March is still going to be a tight month.” 

She urged people to be patient in trying to make vaccination appointments, and she urged people with underlying health conditions to contact their doctor to see if they can arrange shots through their health provider.

Things are moving in a good direction, but we’re not red yet. 

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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