L.A. County closes bars and entertainment venues, limits restaurant service, as COVID-19 cases rise to 94

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Los Angeles County officials on Monday announced that all bars, gyms and entertainment venues will be closed, and dining in restaurants will be prohibited, as the number of novel coronavirus viruses in the county climbed by another two dozen. 

The 25 new COVID-19 cases bring the total in L.A. County to 94, public health officials announced at a news conference. The number of cases is beginning to accelerate, with 41 reported in the past 48 hours.  

Amid the increase, the county has taken the drastic step of temporarily shutting down all bars, nightclubs, fitness centers, movie theaters and entertainment venues, as well as limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery only. The order was announced at the news conference by L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

It comes less than a day after Mayor Eric Garcetti announced a similar one for the city of Los Angeles. 

In Long Beach, Mayor Robert Garcia on Monday announced rules falling in line with the county restrictions, adding that parking tickets for street sweeping would be suspended for week “until we come up with a larger, better parking management plan.”

Officials hope that by curbing large gatherings and encouraging the practice of social distancing, the public can help slow the spread of the COVID-19. 

Grocery stores, pharmacies and food banks will not be affected.  

Garcetti issued the city directive just hours after Gov. Gavin Newsom called for all bars and wineries to be temporarily shut down in the nation’s most populous state.

Newsom has also urged higher risk populations, such as those over the age of 65 and anyone with a chronic health condition, to self-isolate at home. 

As part of the effort, all L.A. County buildings have been closed to the public starting Monday. Most area schools have also been temporarily shuttered as well. That’s in addition to the sporting events, concerts and festivals that have been canceled, as well as theme parks, museums and other popular tourists sites that have been shut down.

Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, acknowledged the significant disruption to people’s everyday lives, but emphasized that social distancing remains the best tool to prevent coronavirus in the absence of a vaccine.

She also encouraged people not to partake in any non-essential activities for the time being.  

Even in cities within the county with no diagnosed cases, Herrer warned the public not to be complacent about the virus’ ability to spread.

“We’re in a new stage of the response and everybody needs to help us. Everyone must takes precautions in everything you do,” she said. “And you must assume that you need to take these precautions everywhere you go.” 

Of the most recent illnesses, five have an unidentified source of exposure, leading authorities to presume that they were acquired through community spread. The source of an additional 17 is also under investigation.

Two of the 25 patients announced Monday have been hospitalized, Ferrer said. She did not provide their conditions.

Also on Monday, UCLA said one of its staff members tested positive for the disease. The person doesn’t work or live on campus and had self-isolated, the university said.

“We are determining whether there are members of the UCLA community who need to be advised about their contacts with our staff member, and if so, we will activate our notification process accordingly,” Chancellor Gene Block wrote in a letter to the campus community. “Please know that if there is a need for anyone to be isolated or tested, they will be contacted.”

All patients with confirmed cases have been isolated and their close contacts placed in quarantine.  

“COVID-19 knows no boundaries and no limits in terms of spread,” Herrer said. “And just because you don’t see a case in your community on the list today doesn’t mean — number one, that you’re not going to see a case there tomorrow and more importantly, doesn’t mean that there aren’t people in your community who in fact may be infected with COVID-19 and just haven’t been diagnosed.” 

Local, state and federal health officials have said they anticipate a continued increase of confirmed COVID-19 cases as testing across the country is ramped up. 

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from mid-afternoon Monday show there are 3,487 diagnosed cases in the U.S., with 68 deaths. L.A. County has reported one fatality. 

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