As restaurants reopen, L.A. County health officials warn it’s still risky to dine out

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While Los Angeles County has allowed restaurants to resume outdoor operations after a two-month ban, health officials are warning residents that dining out is still risky as the coronavirus remains widespread.

“There’s no such thing as no risk at a restaurant or any other setting where people from different households are together,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a Friday briefing.

Here’s how the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and L.A. County ranked the risk of coronavirus spread by restaurant setting:

  1. Lowest risk: Drive-through, take-out or pickup only
  2. More risk: Outdoor only with reduced seating and tables spaced farther apart.
  3. Higher risk: Indoor with reduced seating and tables spaced farther apart. Or outdoor with seating not reduced and tables not moved farther apart.
  4. Highest risk: Indoor with seating not reduced and tables not moved farther apart.

When restaurants reopened this time around, they had to adjust to new rules: they can’t have televisions on, waiters must wear both face coverings and face shields at all times, outdoor tables must be placed at least 8 feet apart — not 6 — and no more than six people can be seated per table, all of them from the same household.

The ban on televisions disappointed many restaurant owners, but with the Super Bowl coming up, health officials say they fear it could become a “super spreader” event as people crowd together to watch at local eateries.

“Because some sectors have re-opened, it doesn’t mean that the risk for community transmission has gone away; it hasn’t, and each of us needs to make very careful choices about what we do and how we do it,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday. “This virus is strong, and we are now concerned about variants and what these will mean in our region.”

The county on Saturday recorded the second case of an apparently more contagious coronavirus strain first reported in the United Kingdom.

The health department said the presence of the variant in L.A. County means “virus transmission can happen more easily,” and urged locals take precautions.

Davis said health inspectors will be visiting businesses to make sure they’re following safety protocols.

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