South Pasadena officials continue to loosen restrictions alongside the county’s pandemic guidelines while remaining conscious that the adapted way of conducting business and sharing public space will be the “new normal” for the immediate future.
The new wave of changes comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom has allowed counties to transition to Stage 2 of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allows certain businesses and public spaces to reopen — with some restrictions — after counties have achieved a certain level of testing for the disease.
However, explained at last week’s COVID-19 briefing that there was still more work needed to catch up with local testing. Though Newsom had recently announced that the state had the capacity to conduct 90,000 tests a day, California was only achieving about a third of that amount due to “supply chain issues” and not enough people going in for testing, Riddle said.
City workers are researching options for local testing sites, Riddle continued. Anyone in Los Angeles County can receive a test, though some sites only accept people showing symptoms.
As of press deadline this week, there were 117 cases of COVID-19 recorded among South Pasadena residents, of whom 80 have been residents of the South Pasadena Care Center, a skilled nursing facility. The city has seen 18 deaths among residents, all recorded at the Care Center. Countywide, there have been 40,857 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 1,970 deaths — half of which have been at skilled nursing facilities and other institutional residential facilities.
Although privacy regulations do not allow the city to determine exactly where new COVID-19 cases are located, if there is a hotspot of cases — for instance, at a grocery store — the city will be notified. Additionally, the L.A. County Department of Public Health includes figures on outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities on its online updates.
The Care Center has recorded 29 of its employees testing positive for COVID-19, and one fatality.
The city itself is implementing procedures to make sure facilities and equipment are sanitized, according to Police Chief Joe Ortiz. City facilities and retailers reopening after L.A. County issued an updated health order will also need to post their social distancing and cleaning procedures.
“Please note that your city is safe and your staff is healthy,” Ortiz said, adding that police personnel were having their temperatures taken before and after shifts.
Some outdoor facilities, including tennis courts, community gardens and equestrian centers, can reopen, though playgrounds remain closed. Many retailers, except for those inside a mall, are also permitted to reopen for curbside and door pickup.
The city also received more than $9,400 from the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments’ Hygiene Participation Program. Ortiz said the funds would be used to install handwashing stations at the War Memorial Building and the Gold Line Station, as well as portable facilities at Library Park, for those experiencing homelessness to use.
Ortiz also reviewed face-covering requirements after Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian brought up reports from residents that only half of the people were wearing masks while walking outside. Ortiz encouraged anyone with questions about the requirements to look at the L.A. County guidelines, which South Pasadena must adhere to.
The guidelines require face coverings while at essential businesses, and when social distancing isn’t possible – for instance, when passing someone while taking a stroll — but are not generally required for residents while they’re outside.
“We keep talking about the new normal. I think this is the new normal,” Ortiz said. “I don’t think we leave our house without a bottle of water, our car keys and a mask.”
The police chief also directed a warning to people considering breaking the health guidelines. Noting that people across the nation have been protesting social distancing and closure policies, he said that 85% to 90% of the community was following requirements, but the police department will follow a three-stage plan for handling cases of noncompliance. On a third instance of noncompliance, police will issue a citation and may even arrest the person.
“I want to remind you that your police department was the first agency in Los Angeles County to issue a citation and file a misdemeanor criminal case with the D.A.’s office for the repeated violation of a health order during the onset of this pandemic,” Ortiz said, referencing a March incident involving Griffins of Kinsale bar.
Ortiz also said that he plans to continue the increased presence of police patrols.
Zane Hill contributed to this report.