California Governor Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered seven counties, including Los Angeles, to immediately close any bars, nightclubs or breweries that are open, due to a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.
The governor's order closes any bar, brewery or pub that sells alcoholic drinks, without serving food at the same time. Restaurants will be allowed to remain open, but they are subject to strict dine-in rules or limited to takeout and delivery service.
“COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger,” Newsom said in a written statement. “That’s why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases.”
The seven counties that have been ordered to shut their bars down include: Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings, and Imperial. Eight other counties have also been asked by state health officials to review their policies and issue local health orders to close bar. Those include: Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Stanislaus.
"Californians must remain vigilant against this virus,'' Newsom added in a statement issued later. "COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger. That's why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases. Each of us has the power to limit the spread of this virus. Wear a face covering and keep physically distant outside the home. Don't gather in groups, and if you are older or have a condition that puts you at higher risk of COVID-19, protect yourself by staying home.''
On Monday, Newsom announced during a midday briefing that Orange County, Solano, Merced and Glenn counties were also added to the state Department of Public Health's watch list due to increasing percentages of positive tests.
Being added to the state's watch list initially means only that state health officials will work more closely with local officials on efforts to manage the spread of the virus. But it could potentially lead to more dramatic actions, as evidenced on Sunday when Newsom ordered all bars closed in Los Angeles and other counties seeing virus spikes.
The number of hospitalized patients in Orange County dipped from 492 on Sunday to 485 on Monday, with the number of patients in intensive care rising from 170 to 175.
Bars have remained closed in four of those counties - Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Joaquin and Imperial - but health officials are asking those counties to keep those places closed for now.
According to the state's news release, the California Department of Public Health guidance says that "brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs, should close until those establishments are allowed to resume operation per state guidance and local permission, unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.''
The release states that "bars are social environments where groups of people mix. In these environments alcohol consumption reduces inhibition and impairs judgment, leading to reduced compliance with recommended core personal protective measures, such as the mandatory use of face coverings and the practice of social and physical distancing. Bars are generally louder environments requiring raised voices leading to the greater projection of droplets. These factors present a higher likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 within groups, between groups, and among the workforce.
"Public health professionals within California and throughout the nation have identified bars as the highest risk sector of non-essential business currently open. Beyond the higher risk of transmission in bar settings, contract tracing, a key measure needed to control spread, is also more challenging in bars because of the constant mixing among patrons and a lack of record-keeping of those in attendance.''
Health officials have become concerned about a recent spike in cases of COVID-19 across California, including in L.A. County where public health officials on Sunday reported more than 2,500 new cases of the coronavirus - the second-highest daily total of new cases since the pandemic began.
"We are actively monitoring COVID-19 across the state and working closely with counties where there are increased rates and concerning patterns of transmission,” Dr. Sonia Angell told the L.A. Times in a written statement. "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."
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