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Gov. Newsom Places SoCal Counties Into Most Restrictive Tier as COVID-19 Cases Swell in November

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Orange, Ventura, and Santa Barbara counties must close indoor dining as cases doubled across the state in the past week

Restaurants set up outside tables in Huntington Beach, California.
Restaurants set up outside tables in Huntington Beach, California
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Monday, November 16, that 94 percent of California will be placed into the state’s most restrictive coronavirus reopening tier, a designation that includes Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Bernardino counties. Orange and Ventura Counties will slide back to the most restrictive purple tier after moving to red tier back in September and October, respectively.

Orange County’s case average increased to 424 cases a day in the past week, an increase of nearly 93 percent; Ventura’s case average increased to 140 a day in the past week, an increase of 151 percent. Last week, 13 counties remained in the purple tier; that number has now increased to 28, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Over the weekend, Los Angeles County reported more than 6,800 new coronavirus cases, a jump that has officials mulling the possibilities of limiting restaurant outdoor dining capacity — and a potential curfew. In just one month, California’s weekly coronavirus cases doubled from approximately 23,000 cases per week, to nearly 48,000 over the past week, according to the Los Angeles Times. During today’s press conference, Gov. Newsom noted these numbers represent “the fastest increase California has seen since the beginning of this pandemic.”

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, officials are concerned the annual holiday and weekend gatherings could push the COVID-19 infection rate and death numbers higher. At a briefing on Friday, November 13, LA County public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said her office will encourage people to not mingle with different households. However, Ferrer said on Monday that if celebrations must take place with individuals from outside the household, these events should be held outdoors.

Regarding businesses, county officials suggested that a curfew might help curb the spread, but only after assessing if a curfew is effective with curbing the spread in other cities. At today’s press conference, Newsom indicated that he will consider the idea of a statewide curfew.

That limitation would curtail the operating hours for restaurants. On Friday, Supervisor Sheila Kuehl emphasized the curfew might help, especially when further drinking impairs judgment and extends visiting times to restaurant and bars. Last week, New York enacted an even earlier curfew that requires any bar or restaurant with a state liquor license to close by 10 p.m. (it was previously set at 11 p.m.).

LA County could also reduce further occupancy in businesses, including for restaurants. Though indoor dining remains prohibited, this could mean reverting back to the temporary closure of outdoor dining and utilizing a takeout- and delivery-only model. In the Bay Area, Santa Clara, Marin, and Contra Costa counties officially will revert back to outdoor, takeout, and delivery-only on Tuesday, and the entire Bay Area could lose indoor dining as soon as this week.

On Friday, officials stopped short of saying another stay-at-home order is imminent. Dr. Ferrer suggested immediate actions for individuals and businesses, which are outlined below.

These potential measures are another worry for LA restaurants, which have been operating at diminished capacity or on outdoor patios since March. Without the same volume of regulars or tourists, the food service industry reported a loss of 75,000 jobs from March to July. Dining rooms remain closed, outdoor seating is limited to 25 percent, and operators are required to bear the expense of protective gear for employees. LA bars and clubs would also be impacted by these potential measures, as they can only remain operational if a food vendor is serving meals on-site.

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