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Pasadena outdoor dining
Photograph: Michael JulianoOutdoor dining in Pasadena

Los Angeles County cases surge, likely triggering a forthcoming “Safer at Home” order

County officials share that this order will be more “targeted” than the one experienced in March.

Written by
Stephanie Breijo

UPDATE (11/23): This afternoon, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials reported the day’s new coronavirus case total reached 6,124, rocketing our five-day average past the county’s new threshold of 4,500 cases, which will likely now trigger another “Safer at Home” order.

During today’s summit, public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that “we’ll be working with the [Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors] to determine additional safety modifications.” What exactly those modifications will be has yet to be determined, but Ferrer noted that “we’re not going back to all of the restrictions that were in place in the original safer at home order,” and that the new order will be more “targeted.” However, nothing is finalized yet until the Board of Supervisors meets on Tuesday; therefore a start date has not yet been announced.

Things have moved quickly since the county first shared these new case thresholds on November 17: On Friday, L.A. restaurants and other “non-essential” businesses underwent a nightly curfew of 10pm to 6am, which they are all still under, and as of Saturday nearly all of California fell under a similar 10pm curfew.

Over the weekend Los Angeles exceeded the first of its new cautionary thresholds, and as such yesterday L.A. County announced a shutdown of all on-site dining, including patio service, at restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries for a minimum of three weeks, beginning this Wednesday night at 10pm.

Our original story on the county’s new thresholds, which originally ran on 11/17: As coronavirus figures surge throughout the country, lawmakers are searching for new ways to stem the tide. Here in Los Angeles, which recorded more than 9,000 new cases over the weekend (Fri–Sun), it looks as if those efforts will take the form of a 10pm curfew for restaurants, bars and breweries, as well as a new limit on outdoor dining, beginning on Friday.

Should L.A. County’s five-day average increase beyond a new threshold, or if hospitalizations reach more than a set number of coronavirus patients per day, outdoor dining will need to cease entirely. And if it increases even further, the curfew will extend to the entire county, not just to restaurants and bars—and a Safer at Home Order would return. 

Tonight, the county announced a series of new precautions and restrictions that will be triggered by case or hospital rates: As of Friday, November 20, a curfew for restaurants, breweries, wineries, bars and all non-essential retail establishments will run from 10pm to 6am indefinitely; essential workers are excused from these restrictions.

Outdoor dining capacity will need to be capped at 50 percent of its alfresco capacity, which also applies to card rooms, outdoor mini-golf, go-karts and batting cages. Meanwhile, non-essential businesses that have been allowed to operate indoors, including retail shops, barbers and offices, will need to limit themselves to 25 percent of their maximum capacities.

Currently L.A. County is reporting 2,884 cases as the five-day average, and 1,126 hospitalized patients, but should it reach 4,000 or more average cases, or more than 1,750 hospitalizations per day, the next set of restrictions will trigger: Outdoor dining will cease completely, and restaurants will need to revert back to a pickup-and-delivery–only service model, as seen in March.

If the county reports 4,500 or more cases on a five-day average, or if hospitalizations reach more than 2,000 coronavirus patients per day, another “Safer at Home Order” will be implemented for three weeks, and the 10pm-to-6am curfew will apply across the county—not simply to restaurants, bars and breweries.

The decision to limit outdoor capacities marks another hurdle in a string of fluctuating restrictions for restaurants and other service-industry professionals, who have been banned from allowing indoor onsite dining since March 17. At the end of May, L.A. County dining was allowed once more, both indoor and outdoor, but only a few weeks later, on July 1, county restaurants were ordered to revert to takeout and alfresco dining models—but what was meant to be a trial period of a few weeks has remained indefinite.

According to the Los Angeles Public Department of Health, in the last month the county’s case rate has more than doubled in adults aged 18 to 29, with other age brackets also increasing. Since the start of the month, hospitalizations have spiked from roughly 900 cases a day to “well over” 1,000 a day. 

Beyond Los Angeles, the state is seeing its fastest increase in coronavirus cases yet. Yesterday Governor Gavin Newsom rolled back dozens of California counties to the “purple” or “widespread” category in his color-coded reopening system. While L.A. County has never progressed to the next stages of reopening, many of Southern California’s counties had—and as of yesterday, all of Southern California is coded as “purple,” meaning a ban on indoor dining, gyms and movie theaters. 

Currently, roughly 94 percent of California now resides in a “purple” county. Yesterday Gov. Newsom noted that state officials are considering a California-wide curfew targeted at certain industries; as of now, at least in Los Angeles County, we’ll have one that starts on Friday for dining.

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