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If COVID-19 Cases Hit More Than 4,000 Per Day, LA County Officials Will Shut Down Outdoor Dining

County officials lay out thresholds for when outdoor dining would be prohibited, as well as when a stay-at-home order would return

People eating outside a restaurant in Angeles on November 12.
People eating outside a restaurant in Angeles on November 12
Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

This afternoon, LA County officials laid out the thresholds of daily average COVID-19 cases that would trigger greater restrictions on outdoor dining for restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries. On Tuesday, officials restricted outdoor dining capacity to 50 percent and set a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. limitation for these establishments accommodating people on the premises, effective Friday, November 20. LA County plans to completely restrict all outdoor dining if the average daily case count reaches 4,000 over a five-day period or if hospitalizations reach 1,750 in a given day. At the moment, cases are at 2,672 in LA County over the past seven days, which doesn’t leave a large margin for a potential cessation of outdoor dining.

In addition, if LA County’s numbers rise above 4,500 cases per day (averaged over five days) or 2,000 hospitalizations in any given day, then the county will revert to a full “Safer at Home” stay-at-home order for at least three weeks, with a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. mandatory curfew with the exception of essential and emergency workers. That scenario would mirror the shelter-in-place order from county officials in March, which lasted for over two months before restrictions began to loosen.

Regarding the latest thresholds, health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said she hopes the county will not reach those points: “I don’t think it’s inevitable that we get there. I hope with every single bone of my body that we don’t get there.” The sentiment indicates a desire for officials to know the imminent danger of surging COVID-19 cases, laying out what could happen well ahead of any proposed shut down instead of surprising business owners with orders before they have a chance to prepare.

Still, yesterday’s announcement of a 50 percent outdoor dining capacity reduction came as a bit of surprise to restaurants around the city. The order was unclear for restaurants who didn’t have set capacity limits for their outdoor seating. Some, like Love & Salt owner Sylvie Gabriele, say the reduction is a huge financial blow: “The 50 percent reduced capacity will cut sales in half. This means a loss in revenues of a couple hundred thousand dollars. I am hugely worried about my staff. How are they going to pay their bills?”

Officials also explained the hourly limitations for restaurants, bars, breweries, and wineries. Indoor dining will continue to be prohibited while outdoor dining must finish onsite-service by 10 p.m. However, takeout and delivery can continue past 10 p.m. LA Supervisor Kathryn Barger was quick to characterize the time limitation as a tool to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. “The Department of Public Health has attributed much of the recent rise in case numbers to an increase in gatherings,” says Barger. “There’s been some confusion, but this is not a curfew or lockdown, but precautionary measure while requiring nonessential restaurants to close between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.”

With rising infection rates and Thanksgiving holiday next week, Ferrer noted concern and action. “We face one of the most dangerous moments in this pandemic, and that the only effective path forward requires immediate action and unfortunately, additional sacrifice.”