Several business and services that have been closed in Long Beach to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus — including salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, museums, zoos, aquariums and outdoor dining — can reopen soon.
The city announced Monday, Jan. 25, that its Health Department would issue an updated health order the following day to align with state guidance, which changed Monday when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that regional stay-at-home orders would be lifted. City officials, though, did not share details on when exactly the businesses and services will be allowed to reopen.
Whenever the order goes into effect, personal care services will be allowed to operate indoors with capacity limits to allow for social distancing, while museums, zoos and aquariums can resume outdoor operations. The city will also once again allow outdoor gatherings of up to three households.
The decision to ease restrictions statewide was based on officials’ projections of intensive-care bed capacity in each region four weeks from now, Newsom said. In Southern California, the state expects about 33.3% of ICU beds to be available by Feb. 21.
The projections were made based on current estimated ICU capacity, current community transmission, current regional case rates and the proportion of cases that wind up in the ICU, Newsom said.
“We feel like we are on firm footing based on science,” he said in a Monday briefing, “based on firm data and based on common sense as well.”
The news came as Long Beach’s death toll inched closer to 600. Officials announced Monday that another 19 residents died because of coronavirus-related causes since the last data update on Thursday, Jan. 21. The city’s death toll is now 596.
Long Beach also reported another 994 coronavirus cases. There have been 46,477 cases identified in the city since the pandemic began. About 34,784 people — or 75% of those who have tested positive — have since recovered.
While the death toll continues to climb, other metrics show the virus’s spread has plateaued in Long Beach, and may even be on the decline.
The city’s new daily case rate dropped to 91.7 per 100,000 people, down from 113.6 on Thursday. It was the first day in more than a month — since Dec. 15, to be exact — that Long Beach reported a new daily case rate below triple digits.
The city’s positive testing rate also fell, from 13.5% on Thursday to 12.3% on Monday. And the number of people being treated for the virus in local hospitals dropped to 433 on Monday, down from 496 on Thursday.
Long Beach’s ICU bed availability, meanwhile, has recently grown from 9% to 11%, according to a city statement.
Still, officials cautioned that while the dropping numbers are good news, residents still need to remain vigilant in the fight against the virus.
“While the slowing of new cases, the reduction in hospitalizations and slowly increasing ICU capacity allows for the limited reopening of certain sectors,” the Long Beach statement said, “it is critical to remember that Long Beach continues to see hundreds of new cases each day and dozens of deaths each week.
“The pandemic,” the statement added, “is far from over.”
Business owners, meanwhile, were relieved by Monday’s news.
“It’s great to hear that we can possibly start to work indoors safely again,” said Brittany Castillo, owner of City Love Salon & Barber. “Even with the extra precautions we took earlier, I always felt like I was looking over my shoulder waiting for someone from the health department to come shut us down.”
City Love Salon & Barber, located along Broadway and Magnolia Avenue, had opened a second location along Ocean Boulevard last March. But within four days of opening, both salons were ordered to close.
Returning to semi-normal operations safely, Castillo said, won’t be a challenge because both salons are smaller in size and typically only allow for two-to-three employees.
“I purchased 100 masks at the start of this, thinking, ‘This is too many,’” she said. “But now it’s all I buy, and we always have plenty on hand.”
And when Sidney Price, owner of Noble Bird in Long Beach, heard the news about the stay-at-home order being lifted, she immediately got to work so she could open her 72-seat patio as soon as possible.
“We have a big beautiful patio starving for people to sit in it,” she said.
“We’re pulling dishes down right now, restocking our line with flatware and plates and silverware,” she added, “and gearing up to do this as soon as is humanly possible.”
The restaurant opened last January, so she only had a couple of months of normal business before having to shut down indoor dining and later outdoor dining due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And, just as it has been for nearly every other restaurant amid the pandemic, it’s been a struggle to survive.
While she’s optimistic about reopening outdoor dining, Price said, she is also worried about what another closure would do for her business. If necessary, she said, she would be ready to lobby the city not to backtrack once outdoor dining reopens.
“We cannot survive another closure,” Price said. “These last three weeks have been absolutely brutal and we are losing money everyday.”
One restaurant whose future is even less clear, however, is Restauration, on Fourth Street. The owner, Dana Shay Tanner, has continued to offer outdoor dining despite the regional prohibition, even as she has faced criminal charges and utility shutdowns at her restaurant because of the violations.
“I just want to get back to running a business versus fighting the city for the right to open,” she said Monday. “I’m sick of fighting.
“For now,” Tanner added, “I just have to wait and see what comes back from the city level.”