O.C. bans gatherings of any size, closes bars and dining out; 29 virus cases confirmed

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Orange County health officials on Tuesday banned gatherings of any size and ordered the closure of bars and dine-in restaurants in effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order will remain in place until at least the end of the month, the O.C. Health Care Agency said.

There are now 29 confirmed cases countywide, seven more than on Monday. Eight of them are believed to be the result of community spread, officials said.

Tuesday’s directive covers group meetings in both public and private, including workplaces that do not provide “essential” services. The agency issued a list of 23 types of businesses and jobs deemed essential, including health and child care workers, grocery stores, gas stations and banks.

All businesses were asked to enact social distancing protocols and offer telecommuting when possible.

Though restaurants won’t be able to offer dine-in service, they can still provide food via delivery, take-out or a drive-thru.

Health officials also ask residents to maintain 6 feet of distance from others, and urged people at least 65 years old or with chronic health conditions to stay at home. Anyone with symptoms of the novel coronavirus, such as a fever and trouble breathing, should self-isolate and contact their doctor.

The new rules fall in line with actions other metropolitan areas in California have been taking. Los Angeles County announced similar restrictions on public spaces Monday, and millions in the Bay Area have been told to shelter in place.

The hope is that by keeping people who are unaware they’re carriers from further spreading the virus, hospitals will have enough resources to handle those who are already infected.

“We recognize community members may experience anxiety related to the social disruption caused by COVID-19, and want to encourage residents to reach out to loved ones using appropriate methods like telephone, video messaging, email and text,” O.C. Health Officer Nichole Quick said in a statement.

Tuesday’s directive states that violations are “subject to fine, imprisonment, or both.”

For general information on the outbreak, O.C. residents can contact 800-564-8448 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Anyone with serious symptoms should call their doctor or 911.

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