California governor Gavin Newsom announced the immediate closure of bars across a number of counties statewide today, including Los Angeles and adjoining Kern County. Other areas were “recommended,” but not mandated, to close their bars, including Ventura County, Riverside County, Santa Barbara County, San Bernardino County, and beyond. The closures are “due to the rising spread of COVID-19” Newsom said in a tweet just minutes ago.
The decision to close bars, effective immediately, comes as California grapples with rapidly escalating coronavirus cases across the state, with Los Angeles County among the leading hotspots in terms of total confirmed cases anywhere in America. Earlier this week, Newsom advised Imperial County, southeast of Los Angeles, to institute new stay at home orders after cases in the largely rural community spiked. Speculation has been swirling for days that more comprehensive lockdowns could be coming for much of Southern California once again as well.
The new jump in coronavirus cases share a timeline with the state’s reopening plans, which began in earnest in late May. Just weeks ago bars were once again cleared to return to action, along with gyms, haircut facilities and other businesses, albeit with strict reopening mandates in place. Still, a recent inspection by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health found that at least half of restaurants were not following approved health and safety protocols. County officials now say they’ll begin to take punitive action for those who are not complying with the guidelines, including mandating the wearing of masks for employees and customers alike, the enforcement of social distancing, and other details laid out in a pages-long reopening document.