Los Angeles County this week delivered yet another blow to the restaurant industry by announcing the suspension of in-person dining outdoors, and officials later rebuffed an effort to reverse the move, while more restrictions were likely on the way as the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to climb.
Outdoor dining, which had been permitted since July, has been suspended for restaurants, breweries and wineries after an alarming surge of coronavirus cases throughout the county; indoor dining at eateries has long been banned. Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a curfew for all nonessential businesses and gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. late last week.
In a virtual meeting on Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors upheld the Department of Public Health’s order on outdoor dining, 3-2. A motion to overturn the decision failed despite the support of Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn.
The county reported 6,124 new coronavirus cases on Monday, shattering the daily record of 5,031 set last week.
Though the total included a reporting backlog from Sunday, county Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer called it an “impressive and alarming surge.”
“Over the last week, we’ve seen alarming, steep increases in cases of COVID-19, which has required that both the county and state take actions to slow the spread of the virus,” Ferrer said in a virtual update on Monday.
Public Health officials said the five-day average of new COVID-19 cases is more than 4,500, sufficient to trigger a three-week Safer at Home order.
“I know for sure we’re not going back to all the restrictions that were in place in the original Safer at Home order,” Ferrer said. “For one thing, we’ve learned a lot more. We have much more capacity on testing now, which allows us to do a better job quickly identifying people who are positive.”
Public Health reported a 67% increase in outbreaks at general worksites such as offices, retailers and manufacturers from Oct. 31-Nov. 14. In that same two-week period, outbreaks at food-related businesses have more than tripled.
“The data emphasizes some of the ripple effects we are seeing as COVID-19 cases across the county are surging,” Ferrer said Monday. “At the end of the day, more people are becoming infected at their jobs, and this results in more transmission back in the community. We are fortunate that there is now a very bright light at the end of this long tunnel with the promising news about effective vaccines, and we know we will be in a different place next year. This year, though, we need to continue to ask all individuals and businesses to own their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that we can stop the surge in cases and ultimately get back to our recovery.”
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services secretary, assured Californians that officials are already working on a vaccine distribution plan.
“California is preparing, has been preparing, and is ready to work with our local partners, our federal partners to make sure that vaccines — which are really weeks away for some populations — are ready and we use it as the important tool that they are,” he said Monday. “Now more than ever, with that hopeful news it’s important that we keep our guard up and we keep doing the things that we’ve been talking about the past many months.”
Health, county and city officials have urged residents to follow health guidelines this Thanksgiving week.
“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” Ferrer said.