L.A. to keep expanded outdoor dining program in place through summer, Garcetti says

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Los Angeles will keep its Al Fresco program allowing outdoor dining to expand onto sidewalks and street through the summer, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday as the city prepares for broader reopening next week.

Garcetti’s delivered a coronavirus briefing Wednesday, his first since public health officials announced the county could further reopen businesses April 5 after advancing into the orange tier, the second-least restrictive under the state’s color-coded system.

That means outdoor bars can reopen Monday, even if they don’t serve food, and restaurants, theaters, museums and places of worship can allow people indoors at 50% capacity.

Bowling alleys and card rooms, meanwhile, can operate indoors at 25% capacity.

Garcetti said outdoor bars that serve food will become eligible Monday for the L.A. Al Fresco program, which helps businesses secure no-fee temporary permits for outdoor dining.

The outdoor dining program will continue through the summer months, after which the city plans to “create a smooth transition to permanent permits for businesses who want to continue taking advantage of our new outdoor life,” the mayor said said.

L.A. County could have joined neighboring Orange County in reopening under orange tier guidelines Wednesday, but public health Director Barbara Ferrer said she wanted to proceed cautiously amid concern over new variants.

On Wednesday, the county reported 648 new cases and 40 additional deaths — compared to daily rates in excess of 10,000 new cases and hundreds of deaths at the height of the winter surge.

“If we wish to maintain these low numbers, it will be essential that each of us not get sloppy,” Ferrer said.

But the numbers are encouraging. Garcetti said Wednesday that fewer coronavirus patients are in intensive care countywide than at any time since the pandemic began, and the test positivity rate is at its lowest point since last April, a “breathtakingly low” 1.4%.

“If these trends hold up, businesses and workers and families across Los Angeles will soon begin to feel that relief,” Garcetti said.

Theme parks are also allowed to reopen in California Thursday, with Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia and Legoland in San Diego set to be among the first to welcome back guests. Click here for a further rundown on theme park reopenings and what visitors can expect.

Meanwhile, California is expanding vaccine eligibility to people 50 and older starting Thursday, and to all adults on April 15.

On Monday, the city announced it would have 90,000 shots on hand this week, including 75,000 for first doses.

Garcetti advised those who have yet to get a vaccine to make a plan for getting an appointment, and for those who have gotten a shot to see if they can help someone who hasn’t.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday that the next few weeks will be “a race between getting people vaccinated, versus avoiding a surge of new cases.”

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