Los Angeles County supervisors voted Tuesday against allowing restaurants to remain open for dining during a surge in coronavirus cases that has the nation's most populous county on the brink of a stay-home order just days ahead of Thanksgiving.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who serves residents of LA County's 5th Supervisorial District, opposed the measure, saying it would "further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year".
On Monday in LA County alone there were more than 6,100 new cases of the virus.
"I sadly-but strongly-support [pausing outdoor dining]", said Kuehl, noting that she had received communications particularly from restaurant workers groups who backed the move, and expressing concern that the largest growth in cases and hospitalizations in the county appear to be concentrated in lower-income communities, more likely, she said, to be home to hospitality and service workers.
Supervisors Kathryn Barger said the closure of restaurants was "arbitrary and punitive" and that private gatherings and celebrations after the recent election, the World Series victory by the Dodgers and National Basketball Association championship win by the Lakers were larger sources of spread.
The proposed order, which met with no objections from the board, would allow other retail businesses to stay open but would further restrict capacity and continue to require the use of masks and social distancing.
There are 1,575 people with COVID-19 now hospitalized and 26% of these people are in the ICU.
Authorities said the focus is to help "reduce the possibility for crowding and the potential for exposures in settings where people are not wearing their face coverings". "We want to gain compliance through education so we'll continue to work with the restauranteurs although it's imperative everyone follows the rules to slow this surge otherwise a State directive could supersede our local Orders". I hope this isn't the last nail in their coffins. "I think incremental efforts to re-open the economy have made it more hard for us to leave the most restrictive tier and safely move in this direction".
Ferrer insisted in her Monday media briefing that the board was fully apprised last week of the planned restrictions, including the end to in-person dining, and the county publicly announced the plans in a news release issued last Tuesday. Socially distanced and safe outdoor dining is exactly that: "safe".
"This is a serious health emergency and we must take it very seriously", Kuehl said.
Ferrer said there was increased risk at restaurants because diners generally aren't wearing masks and they're mingling closely with people they don't live with.
"These are not decisions that we have made lightly".
Janice Hahn, L.A. County Supervisor serving the 4th district, acknowledged in a tweet on Sunday that while cases are growing rapidly, shutting down outdoor dining may not be the answer to lower transmission rates. There were 1,473 confirmed coronavirus patients in L.A. County hospitals as of Saturday, an increase of about 92% from a month before. The number of COVID-related deaths increased by 0.2 percent from the prior day total of 18,726.
The county previously issued guidance limiting gatherings to three households, but there was no numerical limit on attendees.
Like all states across the country, California is experiencing a rapid rise of cases that threaten to overwhelm hospitals. The county's seven-day average daily positivity rate among those tested for the virus was 3.9% on November 1, but it rose to 5.1% by November 8 and stood at 7.1%.as of Saturday.
Barger pointed out that county health officials, including health officer Dr. Muntu Davis, did not present evidence that showed a link between outdoor dining at restaurants and the recent sharp spike of coronavirus cases, KTLA reported.