L.A. County to allow outdoor dining Friday after California lifts regional stay-at-home order

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After Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the regional stay-at-home order, Los Angeles County officials on Monday announced many venues can reopen and outdoor dining can resume Friday.

The county is aligning with the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, allowing activities permitted in the purple tier of the state’s color-coded, four-tier reopening plan.

That means that effective immediately, outdoor activities at family entertainment centers, card rooms and other recreational sites can resume, and personal care services can reopen indoors at 25% capacity with everyone wearing masks, L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said in a news conference.

Restaurants will have to wait to resume outdoor dining, with occupancy limits, until the end of the week, when the county will issue a new health officer order that will also rescind hours of operation restrictions for non-essential businesses that were in place between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., according to Ferrer.

“But please don’t take this news to mean that you can return to life of normalcy,” Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis said. “Masks, physical distancing and limiting activities are still key to getting out of this pandemic until we can get everybody vaccinated.”

L.A. County only recently started seeing improvements, with the coronavirus test positivity rate and the average number of new cases dropping after an unprecedented surge in infections that rapidly accelerated throughout the holiday season and strained hospitals.

But the county is still seeing a high COVID-19 death rate. About 5,000 of L.A. County’s more than 15,000 coronavirus deaths have come in just the past few weeks.

“This is not the time for people to think we can get back to our normal businesses and our normal ways of interacting with each other. If we’re not careful, our metrics that are headed in the right direction will quickly change,” Ferrer warned.

The health director urged residents to follow infection control measures to avoid another surge that will bring back closures.

“If at any point it starts looking like we’re creating again an overwhelming situation for our hospitals, and we don’t continue to see that we’re making progress and slowing the spread, I’ll be the first person to call us all back together to say we need to move forward differently,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said it’s a “very promising sign” that the positivity testing rate is down, but added that the numbers are still too high.

“The virus is strong. It’s everywhere, and it can infect anyone that isn’t taking precautions,” she said.

These venues can reopen immediately in L.A. County:

  • Outdoor-only private gatherings limited to three households and a total of 15 people
  • Fitness facilities can open outdoors
  • Indoor malls, shopping centers and other retailers can open at 25% indoor capacity (but food courts must stay closed)
  • Family entertainment centers can reopen for outdoor operations at 50% capacity
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums can open for outdoor operations
  • Cardrooms can open at 50% capacity outdoors only
  • Mini-golf, go-karting venues and batting cages can open outdoors at 50% capacity
  • Outdoor recreational activity spaces
  • Hotels and motels
  • Faith-based services are recommended to be held outdoors

The vast majority of the state’s 58 counties are in the most-restrictive purple tier.

Though local jurisdictions can implement rules stricter than those permitted in the tier, OrangeRiversideSan Bernardino and Ventura counties have all also announced lifting the ban on outdoor dining and indoor personal care services.

In Los Angeles County, local officials including supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger expressed support for the reopenings.

“A data-driven and pragmatic policy approach is essential to protecting public health, while balancing the devastating social, emotional and economic impacts of this virus,” Barger said in a written statement.

Restaurants have been among the hardest hit as the county scrambled to contain the spread of the virus with capacity restrictions and closures.

L.A. County suspended in-person dining on Nov. 25, saying the ban would last at least three weeks due to an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases. Before that, residents were only allowed to eat outdoors at restaurants — many of which had expanded onto sidewalks and bought canopies to comply with the rules.

A judge later limited the local dining ban to three weeks, saying the health department must conduct a risk-benefit analysis before trying to extend the restriction.

But restaurants in L.A. County still couldn’t open because of the state’s stay-at-home order, which initially was set to ban in-person dining at restaurants until at least Dec. 27.

Many restaurant owners reported having to lay off staff or shut down completely as they felt the financial crush of the closures.

While more venues can reopen now, officials stress that infection, hospitalization and death rates are too high.

“The virus remains very much with us and continues to infect thousands of people daily, and tragically claim hundreds of lives each week.” Ferrer said. “While there’s hope with the arrival of vaccines, we are still months away from a point where most of our residents will be immunized.”

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