Orange County orders all bars to close amid spike in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations

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Orange County officials ordered all bars to close Wednesday, a day after the county recorded the highest one-day increase in coronavirus cases amid a spike in hospitalizations for the respiratory illness.

All bars, pubs, breweries and brewpubs in the county that don’t offer dine-in meals have to close by 12 a.m. Thursday to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, county officials said.

Though the county allowed those that do offer sit-down meals to continue selling alcoholic drinks to people ordering them with meals, Gov. Gavin Newsom later ordered the closure of all indoor dining operations.

“While we would prefer not to close bars at this time, many of our neighboring counties have closed their bars, and it’s important to take precautions to ensure the safety of the general public,” Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel said in a written statement.

Bars in Orange County were allowed to open their doors to customers on June 12.

The county’s interim county health officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, had warned Tuesday that he’s considering closing bars after O.C. was placed on the state’s coronavirus watch list Monday.

With counties statewide seeing a rapid increase in coronavirus infections, Newsom on Sunday ordered the closure of bars in seven counties — Los Angeles, Fresno, San Joaquin, Kings, Kern, Imperial and Tulare — and recommended that eight other counties do the same.

In announcing the closure, state officials said bars are considered to be high-risk businesses since drinking impairs judgment and that might lead people to forget to put on their face masks or keep a safe distance from others.

Shortly after Orange County’s announcement on closing bars, Newsom ordered the county and 18 others to close indoor operations at restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, cardrooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums. 

Other regions affected include surrounding Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.

Orange County health officials are also “strongly recommending” that people stay home if they’re 65 and older or have underlying medical conditions.

As of Wednesday, the county had confirmed a total of 14,413 coronavirus cases with 345 deaths attributed to the respiratory illness. There were 510 people across the county hospitalized for COVID-19, including 176 in intensive care units.

“As we experience a rise in positive cases and hospitalizations, it is important that we take swift and prudent action so that we do not overload our healthcare system or jeopardize the progress we have made in reopening our economy,” county supervisor Lisa Bartlett said.

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