Restaurants Fight LA's Coronavirus Orders In Court

Grant Boone
November 25, 2020

It's a sharp break from the decision made by Los Angeles County public health officials, who on Sunday issued a temporary order requiring restaurants to halt dine-in service for three weeks.

Prior to the announcement, LA County officials had warned that these restrictions could come if the five-day average of new cases in the county totaled above 4,000 or hospitalizations were more than 1,750 per day.

If the county orders residents to stay home, it would be the first such action since mid-March when Gov. Gavin Newsom followed several counties and issued a statewide order that closed schools and severely restricted movement, except for essential workers or to buy groceries or pick up food.

"Given the huge surge in cases across the country this past week, we strongly recommend that you only celebrate the holiday with people from your household, and that you not gather at all with people from outside your household to eat this meal - even if you're outdoors", Ferrer said Monday, when she reiterated the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with. The state recorded its highest day of positive test results Saturday with more than 15,000.

L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis did not have exact data when asked if restaurants are driving the surge in cases, instead citing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found that those who tested positive are two times more likely to have gone to eat at a restaurant than not.

In Los Angeles, the county of 10 million residents accounts for a quarter of the state's 40 million residents but has about a third of the cases and more than a third of the deaths.

Health officials have blamed a variety of factors, including holidays, sports championships, protest demonstrations, an increase in both social gatherings and workplace outbreaks and an overall sense of fatigue when it comes to following the rules. The county also announced eight new coronavirus-related deaths, while Pasadena added one, raising the county death toll to 7,447. The rapid rise has outpaced a troubling summer surge when average cases increased 43%, Ferrer said.

The ban was announced Sunday night when the county's five-day average of daily new cases topped the threshold of 4,000.

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The state on Saturday night imposed a soft curfew, barring "nonessential work, movement and gatherings" between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., continuing nightly until the morning of December 21.

Although the Board of Supervisors signed off on the thresholds last week, Supervisor Kathryn Barger announced Monday morning that she plans to formally oppose the elimination of in-person dining.

It took a pandemic to make it happen, but restaurants including The Rockefeller and Creme de le Crepe on Pier Avenue have finally been allowed to offer streetside dining.

The restrictions threaten countless restaurant owners in the Los Angeles area, as well as the thousands of people those owners employ.

Ferrer said there was increased risk at restaurants because diners generally aren't wearing masks and they're mingling closely with people they don't live with. Closing outdoor dining - where compliance with health orders is high - could also create the unintended effect of prompting more private gatherings, she said. Others have challenged the orders in court.

Two restaurants and two gyms sued on behalf of their industries to have California's four-tier system of business restrictions declared illegal.

To reduce the possibility for crowding and the potential for exposures in settings where people are not wearing their face coverings, the county's Health Officer Order will be modified so that restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will only be able to offer take-out, drive thru, and delivery services.

The city of Long Beach, which has its own health department, also plans to bar in-person dining Wednesday night. We hope individuals continue to support restaurants, breweries and wineries by ordering for take-out or delivery.

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