LA County Officials Mandate Restaurants Must Close Outdoor Dining – Deadline


Amidst much controversy on Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Supervisory Board hotly debated an order from a public health officer that will shut down outdoor dining starting Wednesday.On Sunday, after the county’s five-day average surpassed 4,000 cases for the first time, county officials announced that restaurants, wineries and breweries would stop in-person meals (including outdoor seating ) for at least three weeks. It starts at 10 p.m. tomorrow. While these public places may continue to operate only for pickup, drive-thru and / or delivery, LA County Public Health Director Dr Barbara Ferrer said the county has found several restaurants in Los Angeles violating Covid-19 restrictions, mostly good social distancing.

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The county’s five-day case average was 4,266 on Tuesday.

Los Angeles County Supervisory Board Chairman Kathryn Barger strongly opposed the restaurant’s closure during Tuesday’s meeting, calling one of many “increasingly and incredibly strict” measures.

“I think what’s happening today is going to really devastate our workers,” she continued, “and it’s not based on data.”

The latter comment was a challenge for public health officials who, after being interviewed, could not provide data on the county proving alfresco dining was spreading the virus. Los Angeles public health official Dr Muntu Davis said the best restaurant data came from the United States Centers for Disease Control, which released information showing that Americans with the infection were twice as likely to have dined at the restaurant than those who were not infected.

Davis added that restaurants are the only place people are allowed to gather in groups without masks. “You can’t wear your face while you drink,” he says. Supervisor Sheila Kuehl agreed with this statement.

Earlier this morning, the California Restaurant Association sought a court order in Los Angeles Superior Court to ban the suspension of outdoor dining, but it was dismissed by a judge.

Barger and Hahn brought in a last-minute motion asking their colleagues to reconsider the plan. At the suggestion of supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and based on a pending lawsuit filed by restaurant owners, the board of directors met behind closed doors to discuss and obtain legal comment. After his return, the council rejected the motion. This means the ban will go into effect as planned tomorrow night.

Ridley-Thomas said in a statement: “Today the supervisory board reaffirmed the health official’s recommendation to close alfresco dining in light of the alarming new rates of new cases of Covid-19.

“These are not decisions that we took lightly. We are well aware of the compromises that all Angelenos have been forced to make in order to protect their health and safety and that of those close to them. Unfortunately, as we seek to balance the public health and the economic health of our region, there is no win-win outcome. There are drawbacks to every decision.

Barger cited estimates from the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation that around 700,000 food industry jobs could be lost, with 75% of those losses affecting workers earning $ 50,000 or less per year.

“These measures proposed by the Department of Public Health will further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year,” Barger said in a statement.

Barger said only 10 to 15% of positive Covid-19 cases were linked to dining out with someone who tested positive, while more than half were linked to private social gatherings. The closure of outdoor dining – where health compliance is high – could also create the unintended consequence of causing more private gatherings, she said.

“Companies have made incredible sacrifices to align with security protocols to stay open to pay their bills and feed their families,” said Barger. “The increase in the number of cases does not come from the reopening of businesses, but from large gatherings where people do not wear masks. We are not powerless to slow the spread of Covid-19 and can protect ourselves and our neighbors by maintaining physical distance and wearing masks.

Barger took to Fox 11 Los Angeles on Monday night to voice his concerns, saying, “I don’t care about shutting down an industry based on no science… I think it’s arbitrary and punitive.”

A release from Ferrer’s office on Monday appeared to target Barger’s arguments. He read in part:

In just two weeks, from October 31 to November 14, we have seen outbreaks in food establishments increase by over 200%. Food facilities include restaurants, bottling plants, food processing facilities, grocery stores, and other food related businesses that operate in the county.

During the same time period, we have seen a 67% increase in outbreaks at general work sites which include many other work sites, including warehouses, essential offices, retailers and manufacturing facilities.

Another board member, Hahn, expressed concern about the ban on eating in person on Sunday evening. “Although I know the number of our cases is increasing rapidly, I would have preferred to discuss this measure openly at our Supervisory Board meeting so that the public can understand the rationale,” she wrote. on his Twitter page. “Some of these restaurants barely hold up. I hope this is not the last nail in their coffins. I wish we could have found a way to impose more restrictions rather than completely shutting down restaurants.

Ferrer insisted in his Monday press briefing that council was fully briefed last week of planned restrictions, including ending in-person meals, and the county publicly announced its plans in a press release published last week.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl echoed the sentiment, telling City News Service that the council was in full agreement on the ban last Tuesday.

“The five of us were in agreement,” Kuehl said. “So I was surprised to learn that Kathryn [Barger] had taken it upon herself to individually express her opposition. I do not see any support for this position anywhere and certainly I do not support it.

“Outdoor dining is probably more dangerous in terms of contagion than any other type of business,” Kuehl said Monday.

She said restaurant diners “sit for hours without a mask” and are near waiters and passing customers.

The vast majority of public comments at the meeting were on the order to end in-person meals.

Restaurant owners and officials at Redondo Beach, Glendale, Santa Clarita, La Verne, Covina, Pasadena and other locations have lobbied against increased restaurant restrictions. In general, they called for a review and more focus on preventing small and large gatherings, which they said were the main cause of the outbreak.

A member of the LA Chamber of Commerce said, “These restrictions create an untenable situation for our businesses… We urge you to reconsider these guidelines.”

The county implemented further restrictions that generally limited retail capacity and outdoor gatherings on Friday.

California imposed a soft curfew on Saturday night, banning “non-essential work, travel and gatherings” between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., continuing every evening until the morning of December 21.

City News Service contributed to this report.


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