Los Angeles County — and indeed California at large — is beginning to feel the early effects of what is likely to be another COVID-19 winter surge, spurred on by the newer and highly transmissible omicron variant of the coronavirus. The Los Angeles Times has called the forecast “grim” for the coming months as LA County pushed past 3,500 new cases on Sunday, December 19, a more than three-fold increase from the week before.
New outbreaks have already begun to affect local restaurants, with several prominent places closing temporarily or reducing hours due to outbreaks or lack of healthy staff. Large-scale public events like the planned New Year’s Eve celebration at Grand Park in Downtown Los Angeles and the 62nd annual LA Holiday Celebration have either been canceled or called off in-person attendance due to COVID-19 related public health concerns, though Pasadena says that it will continue as planned with its 133rd annual Rose Parade, albeit with new requirements (including vaccination) in place.
So far only a handful of local restaurants have begun to publicly acknowledge outbreaks or staffing and service reductions across greater Los Angeles, including Venice’s Gjelina, which as a group (across restaurants like Gjelina, Gjusta, and Gjelina Take Away) has reported 28 new COVID-19 cases and plans for reduced staff levels moving forward. Other restaurants have reportedly been forced to cancel reservations and shift service hours during the otherwise busy holiday season, even if those businesses have not announced any outbreaks on their websites or social media feeds.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health mandates that any business with three or more confirmed cases must inform health officials so that those positive cases can be logged in a publicly-viewable database, available here; no business is required to announce outbreaks or closures on its websites or social media feeds. Places with two or fewer cases do not need to report cases to the county, and it’s possible that some restaurants have yet to report to county public health officials.
Late last fall, county officials implemented a “targeted” safer-at-home order when the five-day rolling average of cases pushed north of 4,500 per day. There has been no formal public health announcement of any coming closures, shutdowns, safer-at-home orders, or business reductions so far in LA County or beyond, though California public health officials out of Sacramento did re-implement a statewide mask mandate last week. Some areas, like Oceanside, El Cajon, and Coronado in the San Diego area and other counties in Northern California, have already said publicly that they will not enforce the mask mandate locally.
LA’s current vaccination rate is nearly 84 percent for people 12 and older (with at least one dose; statewide the number is below 65 percent), and under 19 percent for children aged 5 to 11. Vaccination remains the safest way to avoid contracting, spreading, and becoming hospitalized from COVID-19. Large-scale studies show the vaccines to be effective and to offer protection with few, if any, side effects.