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As coronavirus cases surge, Gov. Newsom orders bars to close in Los Angeles and 6 other counties, recommends closures in 8 others

Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered bars and nightspots closed in Los Angeles and six other counties and recommended closures in eight others, including Riverside and San Bernardino, as the state’s coronavirus caseload continued to grow.

The message, posted by the governor around noon on Twitter, said that “due to the rising spread of #COVID19, CA is ordering bars to close in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Tulare.”

The order is the first major rollback of efforts to reopen California’s economy. It was to be applied immediately, a spokesman for the California Health and Human Services Agency confirmed.

The state is recommending that bars also close in Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus and Ventura. For those counties, a health officer order would be needed to make closing bars there mandatory.

Los Angeles County public health officials said Sunday the health officer order would be amended to “require that all bars, breweries, brew pubs, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms close unless they are offering sit-down dine-in meals. This includes closing bar areas in restaurants,” the department said in a statement.

Bars that offer sit-down dine-in meals that are cooked and prepared on the premises and have the appropriate permit from the Department of Health are allowed to remain open, a spokesman said.

The order comes as the county reported another 20 deaths on Sunday, along with 2,542 new cases. A total of 1,350 people in the county have died from complications related to the novel coronavirus.

“While it’s disappointing to take a step back on our economic recovery journey, it’s critical that we protect the health of our residents and protect the capacity in our healthcare system,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “I implore that our residents and businesses follow the Public Health directives that will keep us healthy, safe and on the pathway to recovery. Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death.”

Ferrer urged residents on Saturday to take caution as an increase in cases is leading to a spike in hospitalizations up to nearly 1,700 from 1,350 just a few weeks ago. The county reported multiple days with more than 2,000 cases last week following the reopening of restaurants and other establishments, in addition to widespread protests throughout the region.

The average daily cases in Los Angeles never really went down — now at more than 1,900 from 1,379 two weeks ago — even as officials moved to reopen parts of the economy. Last week, Newsom warned the state could close again certain sectors in counties that were experiencing surges.

On Sunday it appears he made good on that threat.

The seven counties mandated to close their bars have been on the state’s COVID-19 watch list for more than two weeks. The other counties, including Contra Costa and Santa Clara, have been on the watch list for at least three days.

An analysis by Southern California News Group showed that people aged 18 to 40 accounted for most of the increase in new cases, up 41% from two weeks ago to 34,360 cases, representing 40% of the total as of Thursday. Young people under 18 represented the fastest growing number of confirmed positive cases, a 60% increase over two weeks up to 5,954 cases amounting to roughly 7% of the county total.

In Riverside County, spokeswoman Brooke Federico said more information will be shared as soon as it is available. “We are working closely with the state to determine next steps regarding bar closures, including any potential impacts to restaurants that also have bars,” she said in an email.

The county has seen increased cases of coronavirus which have resulted in increased hospitalizations, she said. On Friday, June 26 a record 318 people were hospitalized with the disease — including 105 in intensive care, according to the Riverside County public health dashboard. Total confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 501 to 15,643 that day. Riverside County doesn’t release numbers on weekends.

In San Bernardino County cases were up by 127 Sunday to 11,501. The latest hospitalization numbers in that county, from June 23, show 311 patients confirmed positive, and 130 suspected. At that point 30 surge capacity beds were being used in the county, out of a total of 1,137.

“All community members are urged to wear a face covering, keep six feet of distance from others and wash their hands frequently as these steps are known to slow and prevent the spread of the disease,” Federico wrote. “All businesses that have reopened in Riverside County should follow the state and local reopening guidance available online at”

Newsom and the state’s public health director said they were acting on science in choosing to single out bars at this time, saying they’re social environments where groups of people mix and alcohol consumption reduces inhibitions and impairs judgment when it comes to such things as the mandatory use of face masks, according to a press release from the California Department of Public Health.

Based on California Liquor license guidelines, a restaurant must have the proper kitchen equipment for cooking and storing food and must be open for the primary purpose of serving food. In contrast, a bar might offer a limited food menu in conjunction with their alcohol sales, but this is not required.

Under the new guidelines, brewpubs, breweries, bars and pubs should close. Those that provide sit-down meals should follow the dine-in restaurant guidance and continue to encourage take-out. Bars can also contract with another vendor to provide dine-in meals, but they still must follow the restaurant protocols. Establishments can also go back to providing alcohol beverages for carryout.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday he supported the governor’s actions.

“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 on Twitter. “I support @CAGovernor’s order to close bars in L.A. County and other counties to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia also said he supported the governor.

“From the start of our reopening process we’ve said that we would be led by the facts and the data,” Garcia said by Twitter. “I support Governor @GavinNewsom’s decision to close bars in several counties in California, including here in LA County and Long Beach. We must continue to prioritize public health.”

This story was compiled by Bay Area News Group staff writer Jessica Yadegaran and Southern California News Group staff writers David Rosenfeld, Jennifer Iyer and Josh Cain.

Check back for updates.

Source: Orange County Register

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