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Los Angeles Faces Indefinite Lockdown as COVID-19 Continues to Overwhelm Hospitals

“ICU capacity is not improving,” state officials said today, meaning a return to on-site restaurant dining (among other things) is going to be a long ways off

A closed outdoor dining area
Xinhua/XINHUA via 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.

Los Angeles County and the entire Southern California region will remain in lockdown mode for at least the next month, drawing out the current state-mandated public health order well into the new year — and almost certainly beyond. That’s per Dr. Mark Ghaly of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, who said today “ICU capacity is not improving in Southern California,” and is not projected to improve for at least the next few months. In order for LA and surrounding counties to move out of the current stay at home order, intensive care unit bed capacity (among other factors) would need to improve to at or above 15 percent, and remain there for some time.

There is no firm date for that to happen, Dr. Ghaly acknowledged today, as bed capacity fluctuates daily. The current stay at home public health order will remain in effect “for the time being,” he said.

While not surprising, the news is still a setback for millions of people across some of the most populous counties not only in California, but nationwide. The ongoing public health order mandates everything from the complete closure of any on-site restaurant dining (which has been closed since November 22); limited capacity at various retail facilities (both essential and non-essential); and beyond. Los Angeles County has also had an ongoing curfew that bans non-essential travel overnight, and recently enacted a mandatory 10-day quarantine for anyone returning from a trip outside of county lines.

The ongoing stay at home order has been devastating for basically everyone, though restaurants have been hit particularly hard. Countless small restaurant businesses have closed since the first lockdown orders began back in March of this year, and more are certain to disappear in the coming weeks and months as partisan Congressional bickering over further federal financial intervention (be it a bailout, rent abatement, PPP loans/grants, or direct payments to constituents) plays out in Washington D.C.,

Los Angeles is currently among the hardest-hit areas as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic rages, with intensive care unit bed capacity still sitting at zero percent region-wide, and hospitalizations growing exponentially following Dodger and Laker championship celebrations, Halloween gatherings, and Thanksgiving travel, among other factors.

That said, not every restaurant is abiding by the takeout and delivery-only rules. Some, from Mastro’s in Malibu to Tinhorn Flats in Burbank, have openly defied the ban on on-site dining, even as COVID-19 cases soar to unprecedented heights — particularly within less affluent, often Black and Brown communities. State officials say that an easing of restrictions won’t come until ICU bed capacity is once again above 15 percent, meaning a return to on-site dining is likely many, many weeks away.