State or­ders bars closed in L.A.

Man­date in­cludes six other coun­ties, with eight more ad­vised to take sim­i­lar ac­tion, as COVID-19 rates surge.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Cit­ing the rapid pace of coro­n­avirus spread in some parts of Cal­i­for­nia, Gov. Gavin New­som or­dered seven coun­ties in­clud­ing Los An­ge­les on Sun­day to im­me­di­ately close any bars and nightspots that are open and rec­om­mended eight other coun­ties take ac­tion on their own to close those busi­nesses.

The or­der shuts down any bar, brew­ery or pub that sells al­co­holic drinks with­out serv­ing food at the same time. Those that sell food will ei­ther be sub­ject to the stricter dine-in rules or asked to fo­cus on take­out and pa­tio ser­vice.

The de­ci­sion was an­nounced in a state­ment is­sued by the gover­nor’s state pub­lic health di­rec­tor, Dr. So­nia An­gell. Bars in seven coun­ties are im­me­di­ately af­fected by the state or­der: Los An­ge­les, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tu­lare, Kings and Im­pe­rial.

Eight other coun­ties have been asked by state of­fi­cials to is­sue lo­cal health or­ders clos­ing bars: Con­tra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacra­mento, River­side, San Bernardino, Ven­tura, Santa Bar­bara and Stanis­laus.

“COVID-19 is still cir­cu­lat­ing in Cal­i­for­nia, and in some parts of the state, grow­ing stronger,” New­som said in a writ­ten state­ment. “That’s why it is crit­i­cal we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the coun­ties that are see­ing the big­gest in­creases.”

Al­though bars were not open in four of the coun­ties — Con­tra Costa, Santa Clara, San Joaquin and Im­pe­rial — at the time of the de­ci­sion, the ac­tion cites lo­cal health data that those coun­ties should keep the es­tab­lish­ments closed, state of­fi­cials said.

Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti wrote in a tweet that he sup­ported the gover­nor’s or­der.

“As we started re­open­ing more busi­nesses, we cau­tioned that we may need to change course to pro­tect pub­lic health from this deadly virus,” Garcetti wrote.

Los An­ge­les County pub­lic health of­fi­cials re­ported 2,542 more cases of COVID-19 on Sun­day, the county’s sec­ond-high­est daily to­tal of new cases since the pan­demic be­gan.

The list of coun­ties af­fected by Sun­day’s or­der was based on daily re­ports on the spread of the virus, state of­fi­cials said. Coun­ties that have been on the state’s

watch­list for three to 14 days are be­ing asked to close bars. Those coun­ties be­ing or­dered to close the busi­nesses have been on the state’s watch­list for more than 14 days.

“We are ac­tively mon­i­tor­ing COVID-19 across the state and work­ing closely with coun­ties where there are in­creased rates and con­cern­ing pat­terns of trans­mis­sion,” An­gell said in a writ­ten state­ment. “Clos­ing bars in th­ese coun­ties is one of a num­ber of tar­geted ac­tions coun­ties are im­ple­ment­ing across our state to slow the virus’ spread and re­duce risk.”

The de­ci­sion was based, ac­cord­ing to state pub­lic health of­fi­cials, on data re­lated to COVID-19 cases, hos­pi­tal­iza­tion rates and what they de­scribe as con­cern­ing pat­terns of trans­mis­sion in those coun­ties. State health guide­lines for re­open­ing bars were is­sued June 5, with the busi­nesses al­lowed to re­open as early as June 18.

Sun­day’s ac­tion, how­ever, shows that some of the coun­ties meet­ing the orig­i­nal stan­dard have re­ported wors­en­ing con­di­tions as the days went on.

Bars, state health of­fi­cials said, of­ten op­er­ate with larger crowds of peo­ple who re­move masks more fre­quently to drink, and loud mu­sic may force cus­tomers to raise their voices — po­ten­tially spread­ing more air­borne par­ti­cles. Con­tact trac­ing, needed to de­ter­mine whom an in­fected per­son has been around, is harder when it comes to th­ese es­tab­lish­ments given the con­stant mix­ing of cus­tomers.

In Cov­ina, Elvie’s Inn was crowded and jump­ing Sun­day night, but staff said the bar would shut down Mon­day, al­beit un­der protest.

Angie Sharma-Weis­berger, whose fam­ily owns the bar, said they re­opened Elvie’s on the first day they were per­mit­ted to, in­stalling plex­i­glass at the bars and ta­bles and train­ing their staff on pro­to­cols to re­duce the risk of spread­ing the virus.

“They need to re­think this process go­ing for­ward be­cause COVID will ob­vi­ously be part of our lives for the rest of the year,” she said. “We can’t keep shut­ting down busi­nesses at a mo­ment’s no­tice. This is al­ready a dif­fi­cult busi­ness to be­gin with.”

Sunset Beer in L.A.’s Echo Park had just re­opened its bot­tle shop Fri­day to a lim­ited num­ber of cus­tomers. Its own­ers did not im­me­di­ately open the bar, where pa­trons can lounge and sip craft brews for a cork­age fee, say­ing in an In­sta­gram post that they had hoped to work their “way to that point care­fully and safely.”

Af­ter New­som an­nounced his or­der Sun­day, Sunset Beer in­formed cus­tomers that the busi­ness would again cease in-per­son shop­ping and re­vert back to a web-based or­der­ing and pickup sys­tem.

“Ev­ery­body has been so pleas­ant and un­der­stand­ing that it’s hard to be­lieve that we are all still un­der quite a bit of stress due to all of this,“the In­sta­gram post said. “We re­main op­ti­mistic for the fu­ture - it may be awhile be­fore we can get back to nor­mal but we hope ev­ery­one will work to­gether and look out for each other so that we can get there SOON.”

Brett Ru­bin of Bar Henry had an­tic­i­pated he might be whip­sawed again by shifting guid­ance from the gov­ern­ment in what has been a dispir­it­ing time for small­busi­ness own­ers, he said.

“I want to give our lo­cal lead­ers the ben­e­fit of the doubt … but it feels like we are all grasp­ing at straws,” he said.

The de­ci­sion by New­som stands in con­trast to re­cent choices to leave more of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing au­thor­ity to lo­cal of­fi­cials. The gover­nor has said it is pos­si­ble ad­di­tional sec­tors of the state may need to scale back on re­open­ings, but he has been hes­i­tant to make those de­ci­sions in Sacra­mento.

This month, the gover­nor or­dered all Cal­i­for­ni­ans to wear face cov­er­ings while in pub­lic or high-risk set­tings.

The alarm over the ris­ing case num­bers ex­tends across Cal­i­for­nia, where statewide cases topped 215,000 on Sun­day. Hos­pi­tal­iza­tions and in­fec­tion rates are also ris­ing, and of­fi­cials cite sev­eral likely fac­tors in­clud­ing re­open­ings, pri­vate so­cial gath­er­ings and the re­cent protests over Ge­orge Floyd’s killing in Min­neapo­lis po­lice cus­tody.

On Fri­day, New­som said he was rec­om­mend­ing that Im­pe­rial County re­in­state stricter stay-at-home or­ders, af­ter it con­tin­ued to re­port the high­est per-capita case rate of any county in the state, as well as the high­est rate of pos­i­tive tests.

The Im­pe­rial County

Board of Su­per­vi­sors took no im­me­di­ate ac­tion to di­rect busi­nesses to shut down, but lo­cal of­fi­cials met with a state del­e­ga­tion Satur­day to de­cide how to pro­ceed.

In San Bernardino County, of­fi­cials said that many hos­pi­tals are get­ting closer to reach­ing “surge ca­pac­ity” and that they are mak­ing plans to open al­ter­nate care sites for pa­tients if hos­pi­tals fill up.

In San Diego County, the health depart­ment Fri­day or­dered an Es­con­dido restau­rant to close im­me­di­ately, say­ing its pro­pri­etor re­fused to fol­low pub­lic health di­rec­tives im­posed to pre­vent coro­n­avirus out­breaks.

And Bel­mont Park, an amuse­ment park in Mis­sion Bay, was closed Fri­day af­ter­noon by of­fi­cials who said it was op­er­at­ing rides in vi­o­la­tion of state guide­lines. The shut­down came on the same day that of­fi­cials an­nounced San Diego County’s high­est num­ber of di­ag­nosed COVID-19 cases in a sin­gle day.

An­other day of big in­creases in Los An­ge­les County coro­n­avirus cases and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions prompted health of­fi­cials Satur­day to warn that the county is en­ter­ing a “crit­i­cal mo­ment” and that some of the eas­ing of stay-at-home or­ders is in jeop­ardy un­less the trend changes.

“If we can’t find it in us to fol­low th­ese man­dates, in­clud­ing wear­ing face cov­er­ings and dis­tanc­ing when around oth­ers, we jeop­ar­dize our abil­ity to move for­ward on the re­cov­ery jour­ney,” Bar­bara Fer­rer, the county health di­rec­tor, said Satur­day in a state­ment. “Our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity is to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion, as in­di­vid­u­als and busi­nesses, to re­verse the trends we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.”

Robert Gau­thier Los An­ge­les Times By John My­ers, Alex Wig­glesworth, Laura New­berry and Gale Hol­land

CHRISTINA FLINTLAND works be­hind plex­i­glass at Elvie’s Inn in Cov­ina on Sun­day. The bar will close Mon­day, al­beit un­der protest. “We can’t keep shut­ting down busi­nesses at a mo­ment’s no­tice,” its owner said.

Robert Gau­thier Los An­ge­les Times

PA­TRONS DRINK on the pa­tio at Down & Out sports bar in down­town L.A. on Sun­day. Such pubs that also serve food will be al­lowed to re­main open un­der dine-in restau­rant rules or asked to fo­cus on take­out ser­vice.

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