Recent protests and reopening of certain businesses could contribute to an uptick in coronavirus cases going forward, city officials said at the Burbank City Council meeting this week.
Emergency Management Coordinator Eric Baumgardner told council members that though there has been a recent increase in COVID-19 infections, it remains difficult to attribute it to a single cause. The timing of protests and mass demonstrations, he explained, has coincided with the county allowing the reopening of restaurants and retail businesses, with limited capacity.
Additionally, Fire Chief Eric Garcia noted that more information may need to be gathered as county testing centers reopen after being inactive amid widespread protests.
As of The Leader’s press time on Friday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported there have been 431 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Burbank, with 42 deaths related to the disease. A rise in those numbers has been consistent with that experienced throughout the county, which has shown an increase of roughly 1-2% per day, Baumgardner said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Among Burbank’s cases, 120 people were nursing home residents and 72 were staff members at such facilities, according to the county, which also said 32 deaths resulted from those cases.
Officials also explained some of the health protocols being implemented for city staff members as the county moves into the third phase of the state’s reopening plan. The city plans to bring back most of its employees, according to Baumgardner. Safety measures have been implemented or required at city offices, Garcia added, citing the use of Plexiglas shields, mandated social distancing and face coverings. Businesses that the county allows to reopen will also have their own set of protocols to follow.
The county announced Wednesday that it would allow reopening of several sectors starting on Friday, including gyms, day camps, hotels, museums and professional sports events without live audiences. Music, film and television production will also be allowed to resume.
All sectors will have county-mandated health guidelines for their operations, and the county could reverse the openings if it sees a spike in cases.
EVICTION MORATORIUM EXTENDED, HOUSING DISCUSSED
Council members also unanimously approved an extension to the city’s eviction moratorium for renters affected by the coronavirus pandemic to June 30, matching a similar county measure.
A staff report submitted to the council noted that the county reported an unemployment rate of more than 24% on May 8, and that there was no reason to believe Burbank’s was any lower. Therefore, the report suggested, the eviction moratorium remained necessary.
Housing was a topic of discussion during much of the rest of the meeting. In a presentation from the city’s Community Development Department, officials explained that 115 building permits had been issued in 2019, though 807 units had been in some part of the construction and development process.
This was the highest number of permits issued since 2016, with 51 permits issued for low-income housing and 53 for above-moderate housing.
Furthermore, according to state housing guidelines, Burbank will be allocated roughly 8,750 permits from October 2021 through October 2029 — a striking increase from the fewer than 2,700 allocated from 2014-2021.
Associate planner Lisa Frank explained via email that the allocation does not mean the city will have to issue that number of building permits, which will be finalized in the fall, but rather has to show that it has enough land and building sites to accommodate that amount of housing.
SYRIAN COMMUNITY DONATES $10,000 TO CITY
Mayor Sharon Springer also thanked Burbank’s Syrian community at the beginning of the meeting for donating $10,000 to the city for COVID-19 relief. Half of the funds will go toward purchasing personal protective equipment for first responders, with the other half directed toward Project Hope, an aid program for seniors.
The Syrian community, which makes up no more than 1% of the city’s population, also donated $10,000 to the Burbank Unified School District and plans to make another donation in the coming months, according to the staff report submitted to the council.