Ferrer’s comments were published by KFI AM 640, which obtained a recording of the call.
“We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either Tier 2 [of the state’s reopening plan] or to reopening K through 12 schools at least until after the election, after, you know, in early November,” Ferrer said.
“When we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us the more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re gonna be where we are now until we are done with the elections,” she added.
Critics said the timing seemed unusual.
“What does it have to do with the elections?” one of the radio hosts said. “That makes no sense, she just picked a date, the elections.”
The county health department responded to the leaked audio.
“Dr. Ferrer’s comment was related only to timing any expanded school re-openings to allow for enough time from the implementation of changes to assess impact prior to expansions,” the department said in a statement to news outlets.
Health officials “will be working closely with schools providing services and supports to high need students over the next 6-8 weeks to implement and assess safety directives and strategies for ensuring infection control and distancing,” it added. “This information will be used to inform the timing of future activities at schools.”
Los Angeles officials have imposed some of the most draconian restrictions in the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Health officials banned trick-or-treating this week before walking back the restriction a day later.
President Donald Trump has alleged a number of times that officials are keeping harsh restrictions in place for political reasons.
“It’s a shame what’s going on,” Trump said this week during a rally. “On November 4th, every one of those states will be open. They’re doing it for political reasons.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District serves approximately 735,000 students.
The district previously announced students would have to attend classes remotely.
But health officials on Sept. 2 said K-12 schools could officer in-school services “for small cohorts of students” who had individualized education plans, required instruction for English as a second language, or needed assessments or specialized in-person instruction.
Schools that welcome back the small groups must abide by Ferrer’s reopening protocols.
United Teachers Los Angeles, a teacher’s union, said two days later it opposed having teachers return to schools until it is safe to do so. Union President Cecily Myart-Cruz told members that it was not safe for the time being.