As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations skyrocket, Los Angeles County public health officials announced on Sunday that all on-premises outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries, and bars must cease. The change in policy will go into effect at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25, and stay in place for a minimum of three weeks.
As new COVID-19 cases remain at alarming levels and the number of people hospitalized continue to increase, the LA County Health Officer Order will be modified to restrict dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars, effective Wednesday, November 25 at 10:00 p.m. pic.twitter.com/SQo08dF63A
— Los Angeles County (@CountyofLA) November 22, 2020
The shutdown of on-premises dining comes on the heels of a series of stricter safeguards and restrictions that went into effect on Friday, November 20, including a “business curfew” that required restaurants to close for on-site dining and drinking at 10 p.m. and limited capacity to 50 percent at restaurants, breweries, and wineries operating outdoors.
Gathering and socializing with individuals from other households remains a key concern for public health authorities, particularly going into the holiday season, when many are eager to see friends and family. Temporarily shutting down outdoor dining is an effort to cut down on those sorts of gatherings, as well as an effort to limit service workers’ exposure to diners who have to remove their masks to eat and drink.
“The persistent high number of cases requires additional safety measures that limit mixing in settings where people are not wearing masks,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer noted in a statement announcing the policy.
Even with outdoor dining temporarily suspended, restaurants are able to continue offering takeout and delivery service—including after 10 p.m.
“We hope individuals continue to support restaurants, breweries, and wineries by ordering for takeout or delivery,” Dr. Ferrer said. “We also fervently hope every L.A. County resident supports all our businesses by following the public health directives that we know work to slow spread.”
For the most part, business owners are being asked to cooperate with the new rules of their own accord, with Dr. Ferrer noting at a briefing that, “the best enforcement is voluntary compliance.” If some businesses repeatedly violate the order, they may be approached with public health citations, or in rare cases full closures of the business. Law enforcement agencies, such as the sheriff’s department, are expected to be asked to provide assistance only as “an extreme last resort.”
Additional restrictions on commercial activity are likely to be announced in the coming days. Officials have said that if the five-day average of new cases exceeds 4,500 or the five-day average of hospitalizations exceeds 2,000, a new “targeted safer at home order”—more like what Los Angeles experienced in the early phases of the pandemic—is expected.