After Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered bars in Los Angeles County to shut down, local officials announced they will be amending their health order and called on all bars, breweries, brew pubs, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms to close Sunday, just days after they were allowed to welcome back customers.
“Los Angeles County will heed Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive and bars in Los Angeles County must close today,” county officials said in a statement.
The venues can only stay open if they are offering dine-in meals, but bar areas at restaurants must also close, officials said.
“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,” county Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.
The health department on Sunday confirmed another 20 deaths and 2,542 new coronavirus cases — one of the highest one-day increases reported and an unusually large number for a weekend, when not all labs are open and reporting. The day before, L.A. County recorded 2,169 new cases.
This brings the countywide case total to 97,894 with 3,305 deaths as of Sunday.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said he supports the governor’s order to close bars in order to curb the spread of the virus.
“As we started reopening more businesses, we cautioned that we may need to change course to protect public health from this deadly virus,” the mayor said.
Newsom also ordered Fresno, San Joaquin, Kings, Kern, Imperial and Tulare counties to close bars, while eight other counties — Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus — were asked to issue local health orders to also close them.
Scaling back the reopening comes as the coronavirus positivity rate in the L.A. County continued to climb, with the seven-day daily average rising to 8.7% Sunday compared to 5.8% two weeks ago. It was at 8.6% Saturday.
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is guided by science and data and the key metrics monitored are showing concerning trends,” health officials said.
The county saw a sharp increase in both new cases and hospitalizations, indicating the virus has been spreading more rapidly and the increase wasn’t just due to more people getting tested.
In recent weeks, hospitalizations for the respiratory illness have remained steady at around 1,350 to 1,450 people being treated each day. But they’ve since spiked, with 1,717 battling COVID-19 across the county’s hospitals Sunday.
“The timing of these increases is in line with the reopening of key sectors, including bars, which are places where people remove their face covering to drink while they may be socializing with people not in their households,” the health department said.
Ferrer has said that though officials anticipated an increase in cases as they eased stay-at-home orders, the recent surge in infections and hospitalizations was not expected.
With every new reopening announcement, the county urged businesses to make major modifications to allow for social distancing and continued to ask residents to wear face coverings.
But inspections over the past month showed that thousands of businesses weren’t in full compliance with the county’s guidelines, Ferrer reported Friday, painting a troubling picture as people flooded into restaurants and bars after they opened.
It is estimated that over 500,000 people visited L.A. County nightlife spots like bars and lounges on June 20, the day after the businesses were allowed to reopen, according to the health department.
Known infections among younger residents spiked countywide, with people ages 18 to 40 years old now making up 41% of all the county’s cases.
Health officials also believe the recent massive protests may contributed to the spike, but unlike with open establishments, it’s difficult for contact tracers to track down and confirm outbreaks stemming from demonstrations.
“I implore that our residents and businesses follow the Public Health directives that will keep us healthy, safe and on the pathway to recovery,” Ferrer said. “Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our health care system and seeing even more devastating illness and death.”
Older residents and those with underlying health conditions remain the hardest hit during the pandemic, with 94% of those who have died in L.A. County so far having some sort of medical condition like diabetes, heart disease or obesity.
“All of us must take immediate actions to stop spreading COVID-19 in our communities,” Ferrer said. “L.A. County residents should stay home as much as possible, but when they are out and around others, it is very important to practice physical distancing and properly wear a cloth face covering at all times.”