Credit: Jamie Araki/Canyons News
Credit: Jamie Araki/Canyons News

There’s two sides in a tug-of-war over reopening Los Angeles County. One side wants a slower, cautious opening, noting the potential health implications. The opposition wants businesses to reopen, minding the economical impact.

As time goes on, the restoration of normal life is imminent and will certainly happen.

On May 26, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced California would begin transitioning to the third phase of its reopening plan. On May 29, California granted Los Angeles County permission to reopen restaurants for in-person dining, and resume services at barbershops and hair salons. This comes after a request from the City of Santa Clarita to Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to allow for a variance to reopen businesses. 

At the time of these announcements, COVID-19-related deaths had surpassed 100,000 in the United States in 12 weeks.

While Santa Clarita families struggle to pay rent, keep their business afloat, or worry about elderly loved ones, the thought of reopening brings both hope and uncertainty. 

Renee Kennedy owns a small boutique shop in Santa Clarita and has been struggling financially since she was forced to temporarily shut her doors. She knows reopening comes with risks for herself and her children. 

“I’m extremely scared. I am completely out of funds,” Kennedy said. “I have been living off credit to survive. I need funds immediately for inventory, employees and overhead, such as rent and utilities. Plus childcare for my children.” 

Credit: Jamie Araki/Canyons News

The subject of reopening is an increasingly polarizing issue among Santa Clarita residents. However, in order to survive financially, people like Renee Kennedy will have to return to the workforce at some point.

Despite Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warning of a potential second wave, it is inevitable that more and more of everyday life will return to normal. For most people, weighing whether it is safe enough to return to work can be stressful, but for certain populations, it is a risk that could be life-threatening. 

Who’s at risk?

According to the CDC, people aged 65 or older, immunocompromised, or otherwise have underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. 

Dr. Bud Lawrence, a physician at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital noted the potentially increased severity of a COVID-19 infection among higher risk groups. Despite having similar outcomes, each at-risk group faces unique challenges when dealing with COVID-19. 

Immunocompromised patients can be put at risk not only by the infection, but the dangers of being in a hospital. “The immunocompromised group has an additional risk factor because their immune system globally doesn’t work,” Lawrence said. “If somebody immunocompromised got placed in the hospital from COVID-19, there’s potentially a greater chance that they may get an additional infection, such as a urinary tract infection, bacteria in their blood, or things that would otherwise complicate their COVID-19.” 

Elderly patients also face a significant challenge in beating a COVID-19 infection. About half of the cases in L.A. county have occured in nursing homes or other senior living facilities, according to Los Angeles county public health officials, including 10 deaths and 29 cases at Oakmont Senior Living’s two Santa Clarita Valley locations. 

While the hospital can cause dangers for immunocompromised people, the elderly are inherently more vulnerable to viruses, including COVID-19. “The elderly tend to be harder hit by COVID-19, which is why you see a lot of convalescent homes or nursing care facilities being heavily affected,” Lawrence noted. “In a convalescent home setting, you have a high concentration of elderly patients and those same patients usually do have multiple medical problems.” 

Underlying health problems add an additional risk factor for anybody infected with COVID-19. These health problems can include heart disease, lung disease, hypertension, and diabetes. While elderly or immunocompromised patients can be presented with complicated and sometimes confusing challenges, having an underlying health condition can simply make your body weaker against fighting the virus. 

“Say you have a heart disease and you have COVID-19, there’s a potential that your heart could not be able to compensate as well with the stress of the infection,” Lawrence told Canyons News. “You may do worse than a patient who doesn’t have heart disease.” 

Can we protect vulnerable groups?

Senior living facilities have been amongst the hardest hit places. They create an environment perfect for viruses to spread, and many patients have one or more underlying health conditions. This has shed a light on facilities like Oakmont senior living, where careful procedures could save lots of lives. When asked to confirm the amount of cases and deaths, Nathan Ballard, the spokesperson for Oakmont Senior Living declined to comment, but added, “We are setting the highest standard for safety while delivering meals, disinfecting surfaces, ventilating indoor spaces, and adjusting our visitor policies.” 

In order to keep their bodies in the best possible shape to fight a virus, people with underlying health conditions should make the best effort to have any chronic conditions well-controlled, according to the CDC. For a person with asthma, this could mean using their inhaler as recommended or someone with high blood pressure going to the doctor for medication. 

Wearing a mask, washing hands often, and staying six feet away from others is still the best way to avoid exposure to the novel coronavirus. But for the elderly man who doesn’t have a family member to shop for them or the young girl undergoing chemotherapy treatments, venturing out into the world will eventually be necessary. Some people may be reluctant to wear a mask – but remember – the decision to wear a mask could be lifesaving for another person who is at much higher risk than yourself. 

Canyons News reporters Cristina Lombardo, Emily Berryhill, and Sasha Strater contributed to the article

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