Gov. Gavin Newsom today ordered bars in Los Angeles County and six other counties to close to prevent further spread of the coronavirus, as the state experiences a surge in new cases and evidence of rising community transmission.
Newsom’s order comes 10 days after bars were permitted to re-open so long as they followed strict sanitation and social distancing rules. In West Hollywood bars that have re-opened and now will be forced to close include Mother Lode and Trunks in the city’s Boystown nightlife district.
But in West Hollywood, which has more alcohol sales licenses per capita than any other city in California, many restaurants include bars. Some WeHo locations such as Beaches, Hi Tops, and Rocco’s are better known for their bars than their food service, however they will be able to continue to serve alcohol to customers so long as they order meals. Beaches and Barney’s Beanery both have been investigated by the city’s Code Enforcement Division for previously selling cocktails without requiring that one purchase a meal.
Newsom issued his order in a tweet at 12:17 p.m. “NEW: Due to the rising spread of #COVID19, CA is ordering bars to close in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, and Tulare, while recommending they close in Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, & Ventura.”
“We are actively monitoring COVID-19 across the state and working closely with counties where there are increased rates and concerning patterns of transmission,” said Dr. Sonia Angell, the state’s public health director. “Closing bars in these counties is one of a number of targeted actions counties are implementing across our state to slow the virus’ spread and reduce risk.”
Local law enforcement agencies said they were just learning of the order along with everyone else.
“We just got the notice. But as of right now, we have not been given any guidance, which way. It’s breaking news,” Officer Rosario Cervantes of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Media Relations Section told City News Service.
“We probably won’t know of anything until Monday,” said Deputy Tina Schrader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Information Bureau. “We are the last to know.”
Los Angeles County officials have reported “significant increases” in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates in recent days, including 2,542 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 20 additional deaths reported today.
Those numbers brought the county’s totals to 97,894 cases and 3,305 fatalities. As of today, there have been 246 confirmed COVID-19 infections and four deaths in West Hollywood.
According the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the seven-day average of daily new cases is more than 1,900, an increase from the 1,379 average two weeks ago. There are 1,717 people currently hospitalized, which is higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen in recent weeks.
And, with test results now available for more than one million individuals, 9% are testing positive. The cumulative positivity rate has increased from 8% to 9%, and the seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% two weeks ago to 8.6%.
Some officials have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said repeatedly in recent days that the metrics clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Health officials said Friday the rise in cases — hitting the county’s younger population particularly hard — likely reflecting re-openings of bars and restaurants and participation in this month’s mass demonstrations against police brutality.
Ferrer said Thursday that residents and business owners — most notably bars and restaurants — have a joint responsibility to adhere to health requirements and protocols. She noted that over the three recent weekends after restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for dine-in service, county inspectors visited more than 3,700 establishments, and 83% of them were found not to be in full compliance with county protocols for reopening.
Ferrer said that over the past two months, the largest percentage of complaints the Department of Public Health received about restaurants and other businesses were violations of the requirement that safety protocols be publicly posted at each establishment and distributed to employees. The second most common complaint was people not wearing face coverings.
“Business owners, we ask that you too do your part,” Ferrer said Thursday. “Our guidelines are not suggestions. They are mandates. If you see someone in your business that’s not wearing a face covering, take action. If you see large groups of people congregating in your business, question whether those folks truly came from the same household and take action. Ask them to step away from each other.
“I know this is difficult. It’s summer, restaurants and bars are open, and things seem like they’re back to normal, but they’re not. The virus is deadly. The virus remains in our community and if we don’t collectively take the necessary steps to be safe we’ll continue to see people we love get sick, be hospitalized and potentially die.”
Officials are also warning the public about reports of phony mask exemption cards that depict a government seal with threatening language.
“Everyone, except children under the age of 2, should wear a face covering securely over their nose and mouth any time they leave the house and keep six feet apart from others not in your household when out and about,” a health department statement said. “People with medical conditions that prevent safe use of a face covering are asked to wear a face shield. Accurate information will always be distributed officially by Public Health through official channels in the form of a press release, on the Public Health website and through social media accounts @lapublichealth.”
While the average number of daily deaths from the virus has been dropping, the number of daily new cases is on the rise. According to the county, the seven-day average number of new cases was 1,979 as of Friday, up from 1,379 just two weeks ago.
Ninety-four percent of the county’s 3,285 coronavirus deaths have occurred in people with underlying health conditions.
EDITOR”S NOTE: This story has been updated to include the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections and related deaths reported as of today (Sunday).