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Rising Coronavirus Numbers Mean LA County Won’t Do Indoor Dining Any Time Soon

County health director Dr. Ferrer says not to expect any easing restrictions for at least this month, possibly beyond

New York City Restaurants Resume Indoor Service At 25% Capacity
Outdoor dining
Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Emerging data around the growing spread of coronavirus across Los Angeles County means that restaurants will likely need to stick with outdoor dining and takeaway/delivery only for weeks to come — and possibly even months.

Nationwide, the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge to new heights, as a long-promised second wave of COVID-19 infections sweeps through most states. Locally, LA County has fared better than the national average but has still seen “a steady uptick in the average number of daily coronavirus infections,” reports the LA Times, with more likely to come in the following days and weeks. On Monday L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced more than 1,400 new coronavirus cases and a rising case rate, putting a move into a less restrictive tier out of reach for at least the next two weeks, she said, if not longer. Per the Los Feliz Ledger, Dr. Ferrer further noted in a conference with reporters yesterday that the county is likely to remain in its current purple tier (aka the widespread, or most restrictive, tier) for at least the entirety of November, if not beyond.

The state’s rolling tier system, dubbed the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, began this fall under direction from Governor Gavin Newsom and California Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. It relies on weekly averages of key coronavirus data to determine the easing of restrictions on businesses and people, and is dictated county by county. Currently Orange County and Ventura County have moved into a less restrictive red/substantial tier, which allows for the return of limited indoor dining at restaurants, up to 25 percent of total capacity. Riverside County had been in the same tier, but backslid in late October due to rising COVID-19 numbers, and has had to do away with indoor dining once again. San Diego County is at risk of backsliding this week as well, due to a rising coronavirus case rate.

While LA County’s numbers don’t match the staggering case reports out of states like North and South Dakota, the country’s most densely-populated county (with over 10 million inhabitants) still faces hurdles before allowing restaurants to reopen for limited indoor dining into the late fall and winter months. Diners and restaurant owners have collectively wondered for months when such an easing might take place, even as LA County’s Dr. Ferrer noted in a press conference late last week that up to 15 percent of traced COVID-19 cases could be stemming from public group gatherings at restaurants and bars.