Outdoor dining resumed on Friday following a health order from Los Angeles County officials, just days after the state lifted its prohibition of the practice.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that he was lifting a stay-at-home order that has been in effect since early December, returning counties to the statewide guidelines of the tiered system, which allows in-person dining outdoors. L.A. County officials said later that day that they would issue a health order on Friday allowing restaurants to serve patrons outdoors.
The county also rescinded a curfew for nonessential businesses that requires them to close from 10 p.m.-5 a.m.
Burbank officials said that on Tuesday they will place modular barriers known as K-rails on parts of San Fernando Boulevard, along with tables and chairs to allow diners to eat outdoors. The city closed parts of the road in downtown Burbank to vehicle traffic last year for the same purpose, but officials said businesses that were surveyed indicated they preferred this “hybrid” approach.
Businesses along San Fernando Boulevard with outdoor dining permits are able to serve patrons starting today.
Michel LeChasseur, owner of Ma’s Italian Kitchen, said he’s grateful that he’s able to open his outdoor patio and add additional seating in the parking lot. But he added that he’s confused by the timing of the governor’s announcement, saying the doctors and nurses that pick up food from his restaurant are still struggling with hospitalizations.
LeChasseur, whose business last year fell to about 30% of its 2019 levels, also said he’s worried that cases will rise again, forcing another wave of restrictions. But he explained that the local community has helped keep his business afloat, with some residents ordering food weekly.
“The Burbank community has been supporting us in an amazing way, but we take any extra with open arms,” LeChasseur said of reopening.
Personal care services such as hair and nail salons were able to open at 25% indoor capacity starting Monday, and outdoor private gatherings are allowed when limited to three households and a total of 15 people. Museums, zoos and aquariums can also reopen for outdoor operations.
Stacy Godwin, who owns the Vanity by Stacy Godwin hair salon, said she is frustrated that her business’ capacity is so limited when other locations have higher limits, but is happy to see the salon open again. Patrons have been calling nonstop, she added, and she has also been able to return her staff to work.
“I was just really excited that they finally opened it up,” she said. “Every day you just watch the news and hope that today is the day.”
Many restrictions remain in place, however. L.A. County, like most of the state, is in the purple tier in the state’s recovery blueprint, indicating widespread coronavirus transmission and requiring many nonessential businesses to halt indoor operations.
Newsom’s December health order restricted many sectors based on a region’s intensive care unit capacity, which, in Southern California, has remained at 0% for more than a month.
However, Newsom pointed to encouraging indicators that the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations was improving, saying that Southern California was projected to be at 33.3% ICU capacity by Feb. 21. He also explained that the state’s projection of ICU capacity relies on multiple variables, including estimated available capacity, community transmission, case rates and ICU admission rates.
But Newsom and other officials reminded residents that improvement in those statistics could change if individuals and businesses flouted restrictions.
“Everything that should be up is up. Everything that should be down is down,” Newsom said Monday, explaining that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 had decreased by 20% over two weeks. “But we are not out of the woods.”
As of Wednesday, according to the county public health department, 7,389 Burbank residents had tested positive for COVID-19 and 171 had died. The seven-day average of new cases was at 48.9 a day, a stark drop from the 108 a day on Dec. 28, but still far higher than the 14-a-day average on Oct. 28.
“More restrictions may be needed if noncompliance leads to hospitalizations and transmission,” county Supervisor Hilda Solis said on Monday. “We need to be vigilant and always do what is best for our residents. While we continue to wait for more vaccines to come, our actions still matter a great deal.”
VACCINE ELIGIBILITY SHIFTS
Newsom also announced Monday that the state will switch to an age-based vaccine eligibility system after those who are 65 and older, as well as first responders, health-care workers, agricultural workers and school staff members, receive vaccines.
Currently, in L.A. County, health-care workers, long-term care residents and people 65 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. But many have complained that the state’s vaccine rollout has been slow, with some worrying that there aren’t enough doses or that the wrong groups are being prioritized.
“We’re not losing sight of any of those fundamentals, any of our values,” Newsom said, “but we realize we have got to increase throughput here, and while we are proud of the framework we put out, [the Centers for Disease Control] put out … we recognize it has advantages, and it has disadvantages as it relates [to] speed and efficiency.”
Newsom also said the state had launched a pilot service at myturn.ca.gov, a web application that allows residents to be notified when they are eligible to receive the vaccine.
ATHLETES STAND BY FOR UPDATE FROM COUNTY
Newsom’s lifting of the stay-at-home order moved counties back into the state’s blueprint for a safer economy, a color-tiered metric based on test positivity and adjusted case rates for COVID-19, and all but four of 58 counties are in the purple tier, indicating widespread infection.
It also gave athletes and coaches a green light to resume athletic activities.
“We are seeing a flattening of the curve,” he said. “Certain youth sports can resume for competition, in particular with modifications and considerations.”
However, Los Angeles County’s reopening protocol for youth sports league — which has not been updated since Oct. 22 — does not permit competition at the moment. The only fall sport that can be played while in the purple tier is cross-country, in which dual meets can be held should public health officials allow it.