‘Long winter’ of virus surge fades as county enters orange tier

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

The current state of Claremont’s coronavirus outbreak could be summed up by the words of Beatle George Harrison when he wrote “It feels like the ice is slowly melting.”

All around Claremont there are signs that the “long cold lonely winter” of staying at home and the seemingly endless disruption to our local economy is coming to an end. The most dramatic being, of course, when the county officially advanced the orange tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy on Monday.

The news means that our many restaurants can increase indoor dining capacity from 25 to 50 percent. Bars, which have remained closed, can now open outdoors with many restrictions. Breweries can open their taprooms at 25 percent capacity but only to customers with reservations. Movie theaters, gyms and museums can all increase their capacity with masking and other restrictions.

Running errands in the Village feels very different. For one thing, you can no longer count on a parking spot right in front of the business you wish to visit. People are out and about, Indian Hill Boulevard has traffic problems at noon on a Tuesday. Still, during a recent trip to the U.S. Post Office, the COURIER reporter noticed that most people were still observing the mask ordinance.

“It’s really nice to have the doors open and people come back, while being safe as well,” Ellen Harper Chase, manager of the Folk Music Center told the COURIER. She said they plan to expand the hours of operation and bring back private music lessons soon. 

“Hopefully we will get back to putting on shows,” she said. “Everyone wants the open mic to return, so maybe we will do it outside or with fewer people.”

The Claremont Helen Renwick Library will reopen in 10 days, one of the first branches in the county to resume in-person services.

L.A. County Library officials announced on Friday plans to reopen 30 of the 85 libraries for select in-person service beginning April 19. The 30 libraries have been cleared to safely reopen at 50 percent capacity under county public health guidelines including wearing face coverings and maintaining physical distancing. 

“In preparation for reopening its doors to the public, L.A. County Library is working diligently to ensure safety protocols are met and appropriate preventative measures are in place,” library officials said in a statement.

The county has not updated the vaccination data for Claremont since March 26 when the city reported 12,313 people had received at least one dose of the inoculation, 38.9 percent of the population. Since then, eligibility for the vaccine has expanded to people age 50 or older and those 16 and older with significant health issues that would increase their chances for severe COVID-19 symptoms. On April 15, all residents 16 and over will qualify, opening up the inoculation to an additional five million people in Los Angeles County.

To help bolster the local herd immunity, the City of Claremont is bringing the coronavirus vaccine to town with an inoculation clinic this coming week.

The city is partnering with Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to offer the vaccine to 150 residents on Wednesday, April 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hughes Community Center. There will be a walk-up clinic outside on the basketball courts adjacent to the Hughes Center. This is not a drive-thru event, residents will be required to park and walk. Appointments are required, and as of Monday, April 5, about 100 spots were still available.

The clinic is open to all Los Angeles County residents who currently qualify for the vaccine, not just Claremont residents. A wait list will be started after the 150 doses are reserved.  

City officials do not know which vaccine will be available, so if either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is administered, the city will hold a second dose clinic four weeks later for the same individuals who received the first shot.

Appointments can be made by calling the Joslyn Center at (909) 399-5488 during regular business hours, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cumulative cases in the city now stand at 2,288 and sadly on more person has died, bringing the total to 56 in Claremont. Happily, for the second week in a row there are no institutional outbreaks of COVID-19 in the city of Claremont.

On Wednesday the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 53 new deaths and 479 new cases of COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic the county has recorded 1,223,174 cumulative cases of COVID-19 and a total of 23,340 deaths.

Public health officials announced Wednesday that all key metrics indicate less community transmission in L.A. County even if the rate of decrease is slowing for hospitalizations and cases.

“The daily number of cases dropped 82 percent from February 1 to February 28. During the month of March, the daily number of cases continued to decrease, but dropped only 42 percent from March 1 to March 30. There is a similar slowing for hospitalizations, as well. During the month of February, the number of daily hospitalizations dropped 70 percent from February 1 to February 28 with only a 57 percent drop from March 1 to March 30,” health officials said in a statement.

Among the good news there were words of caution as the South African and Brazilian variants of the coronavirus have been detected in L.A. County. Also of 70 specimens analyzed by a pubic health laboratory this last week, 64 percent were identified as the U.K. variant and 20 percent were the California variant, both of which are more infectious and result in more severe illness.

On Tuesday governor Gavin Newsom announced his intention to fully reopen the state’s economy by June 15. The move will depend on the state receiving adequate vaccine supply from the federal government and hospitalization rates remaining low and stable.

It will not be a full return to pre-pandemic life, as the state’s mask mandate will remain in place. However, if does come to pass and we fully reopen in two months it will be a remarkably different summer from the one we experienced last year.

Go ahead, don’t be shy sing along:

“Little darling, the smile’s returning to the faces.
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here…”


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