Emerson Los Angeles on track to reopen, according to county health officials

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Photo: Beacon Archives

Emerson’s Los Angeles campus.

By Camilo Fonseca, Assistant News Editor

Provided that COVID-19 metrics continue to trend as expected, the in-person summer program at Emerson Los Angeles should go ahead as planned, local public health officials said in a call with Emerson officials Thursday.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health indicated that decreasing case numbers and hospitalizations would likely allow the Emerson program to reopen for the first time in more than a year on May 17. The Hollywood campus, one of Emerson’s premier attractions, has remained shuttered since the pandemic first disrupted life last March. 

California’s reopening plan consists of four tiers: from worst to best, purple, red, orange, and yellow. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently cleared LA County to move into the red tier as early as Monday, though LA County officials—who have ultimate say—have yet to confirm the decision. LA County reported 1,178 new cases on March 11, compared to 20,414 on New Years Day.

“With the [case] numbers where they are, the county is anticipating that it will move on to orange tier by the time summer comes around, which means that we will be able to open the campus,” ELA Associate Dean of Students Timothy Chang said in an interview.

Chang, who serves as chief operations officer for the ELA program, said while the program is “on track to open in the summer,” they had not yet received official approval from the LA County DPH.

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“They did not do a complete greenlight,” he said. “Things are looking really good. If they continue the way they are, summer is good [to reopen the LA campus]. But they can’t say ‘go ahead and open’ right now.”

An announcement on Emerson Today erroneously stated that county health officials “okayed” the reopening. The March 11 article, removed from the site hours after being posted, came only three days after students received emails stating that ELA was still awaiting official clearance.

In the communication from March 8, the college said ELA was moving forward with its summer reopening plans without express permission from health officials, “in the hope of the building’s reopening.”

“We hope to have a definitive answer about the opening of the Summer 2021 session no later than April 1,” the email read.

Plans to reopen the campus during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters were both scuttled weeks before their start dates

The now-deleted article stated all ELA students enrolled in the summer session will be required to follow the same COVID-19 protocols as the Boston campus, including masks, social distancing, contact tracing, and frequent testing. While the article reported the reopening had received formal authorization, it went on to condition the reopening on maintaining a nationwide  vaccination rate of “roughly 2.5-3 million doses” a day.

“We will be closely monitoring the situation and will stay in close contact with [the] Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” the announcement read.

Chang said that, given the vote of confidence from county health officials, he is hopeful the summer term will proceed unimpeded.

“Everything is just so fluid,” he said. “But if things go well, and spring break does not result in a big spike, and more people get vaccinated and the numbers continue to go down, reopening looks like a very good likelihood.”

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