LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Los Angeles County beaches reopened Wednesday, May 13, amid questions about how long — and to what extent — public health orders to combat COVID-19 will remain in place, with county officials insisting restrictions will be slowly lifted in the coming months.

County public health director Barbara Ferrer created a stir Tuesday when she told the county Board of Supervisors that some form of public health restrictions will likely be in place at least another three months due to the continuing threat of the coronavirus.

The remark, made during a debate over a proposed moratorium on evictions, quickly made headlines and prompted groans from residents growing weary of business closures, stay-at-home orders and shuttered restaurants and bars.

Ferrer — who has been candid for weeks about the likelihood that mandates including wearing face coverings and social distancing would remain in effect for months as the “new normal” — issued a statement later Tuesday to clarify her remark and allay residents’ fears about continued “Safer At Home” orders.

“While Safer at Home orders will remain in place over the next few months, restrictions will be gradually relaxed under our five-stage Roadmap to Recovery, while making sure we are keeping our communities as safe as possible during this pandemic,” she said.

“We are being guided by science and data that will safely move us forward along the road to recovery in a measured way — one that allows us to ensure that effective distancing and infection control measures are in place,” she said. “We’re counting on the public’s continued compliance with the orders to enable us to relax restrictions, and we are committed to making sure that LA county is in the best position to provide its 10 million residents with the highest level of wellness possible as we progressively get back to normal.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also went into damage control Tuesday, appearing on CNN to head off rumors that the county will be on lockdown for three more months.

“I think quite simply she’s saying we’re not going to fully reopen

Los Angeles — and probably anywhere in America — without any protections or any health orders in the next three months,” Garcetti said. “I think we know it’s going to be even longer than three months. As I’ve said a million times, we’re not moving past COVID-19, we’re learning to live with it.”

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger also issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying Ferrer’s comments at the board meeting were “taken out of context” by some.

“Relaxing the restrictions in the ‘Safer At Home’ order is an important focus for the county, which will be done gradually over the next few months,’’ Barger said. “I am eager to reopen more of LA county as soon as it’s safe to do so, in collaboration with our health experts, community leaders, businesses and residents, with best practices in place to ensure our overall health and well-being. These decisions will be guided by the latest science and data collected. I’m confident that the more our communities continue to comply, the sooner we can resume normalcy.’’

Restrictions under the health order have been slowly loosened over the past week. Beaches opened for active use only on Wednesday. On Friday, May 15, some retail businesses — toy stores, sporting goods stores, clothing stores, music shops and florists — were allowed to reopen with curbside pickup only. Car dealers were also permitted to reopen, as long as they adhere to sanitation and social distancing mandates.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death toll in Los Angeles County topped the 1,600 mark Tuesday, with nearly four dozen more fatalities reported, along with nearly 1,000 new confirmed cases of the illness.

The county Department of Public Health reported 45 additional deaths on Tuesday, although one of those fatalities was announced Monday afternoon by Long Beach, which has its own health department.

Long Beach reported three additional deaths Tuesday afternoon, while Pasadena, which also has its own health department, announced one more fatality. The new deaths raised the county’s total number of fatalities to 1,617. The county noted that one death that had been reported earlier turned out to a person who did not live in the county, so that case was removed from the total.

The county also reported another 961 confirmed cases, while Long Beach reported 31 and Pasadena 36, lifting the overall county total to 33,247.

Of the 1,490 deaths for which ethnic data was available, 38% were Latinx, 29% white, 18% Asian, 13% black and 1% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander.

Roughly half of the coronavirus deaths in the county have occurred at institutional settings, mostly skilled nursing facilities.