The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to uphold the modification of the current County Public Health Order to temporarily prohibit outdoor dining countywide during their regular meeting Tuesday amid rising COVID-19 case numbers.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 against maintaining the current restrictions instated by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to curtail the spread of COVID-19, meaning that the three-week prohibition on in-person dining for the over 31,000 restaurants in the county is set to begin on Wednesday evening.
“I sadly but strongly support moving our restaurants back to take out and delivery,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
Kuehl, along with Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas voted against a motion from Supervisor Kathryn Barger to delay this shut down and maintain the current health restrictions, while Barger and Supervisor Janice Hahn voted in favor.
“I feel this arbitrary and punitive towards outdoor dining in restaurants,” Barger said. “While it is a concern that cases are increasing, it cannot be directly attributed to outdoor dining.”
But I do not want to give people the idea that we are not facing a serious crisis that demands action.
We need you to stop gathering with friends and family.
Please cancel your plans. I did.
Our healthcare employees, our workers, and businesses need us to turn this around.
— Janice Hahn (@SupJaniceHahn) November 24, 2020
Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Marsha McLean was one of several individuals to call into the meeting for public comment, calling the proposed shutdown “absolutely unconscionable.”
“By shutting down restaurants one more time in a one-size-fits-all (approach), that is absolutely wrong,” she said. “Please reconsider.”
Over 7,700 written comments had been submitted before the board meeting Tuesday morning, the vast majority of which were opposed to further shutdowns.
“What a disgrace, I can’t believe you are the people that govern us,” one comment read. “You have the power to reverse this disgraceful ‘health order’ and you 100% should reverse it, you haven’t even given the curfew a chance. What a disgrace and how un-American.”
Residents who submitted both written and spoken public comments referred to the shutdowns as a “pattern of abuse,” stating that they are an “ineffective, archaic management tool that only further plunges our society into poverty and despair.”
“This will have a devastating impact on our employees and our business,” small business owner Amanda Georgino wrote in one comment. “Our employees have followed all protocols and luckily we have not had a positive case. Please allow us to maintain at least outdoor dining with the protocols in place. This is not where COVID is spreading.”
The discussion was held at the request of Barger, who also authored a motion with Hahn that directs county staff to collaborate with local universities to “provide feedback and develop strategies and recommendations to guide our future decisions regarding COVID-19 response and reopening our businesses and communities.”
“As the county reaches a critical junction in protecting the health and economy of our residents, and also preparing the distribution of a vaccine, we must utilize all resources and experts to best serve our communities,” the motion reads. “Los Angeles County is home to some of the world’s leading research institutions, many of which have published critical research on how to respond to a crisis like COVID-19. It is in the best interests of our residents that these experts are consulted by not only our county health departments, but also by the Board of Supervisors.”
That motion was passed unanimously.
In a statement issued Monday, Barger said that the measures proposed by public health officials would “further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year.”
“Businesses throughout the County have invested thousands of dollars to ensure safety for their employees and customers only to be punished for the recent surge they have done everything in their power to prevent,” she said.
Last week, Los Angeles County established thresholds for additional actions if the five-day average of daily COVID-19 cases is 4,000 or more or hospitalizations are more than 1,750 per day, to restrict in-person dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars. That threshold was met on Sunday.
If the five-day average of cases is 4,500 or more or hospitalizations are more than 2,000 per day, a Targeted Safer at Home Order would be issued for three weeks, offering additional restrictions while “allowing essential and emergency workers and those securing essential services to leave their homes.”
On Monday, 6,124 additional Los Angeles County coronavirus cases were reported, an estimated 1,400 of which came from a weekend backlog.
Just over 1,470 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday, 27% of which were in the ICU. For context, these numbers are very similar to the ones the county reported in June, when health officials recommended the reopening of bars within the county.
“Businesses have made incredible sacrifices to align with safety protocols to remain open in order to pay their bills and feed their families,” Barger said in Monday’s statement. “Our hospitalization rates are among the lowest we’ve seen. Yet, the rationale for further closures is tied to the number of patients in the hospital. We’ve come a long way to support workers and residents who are struggling to stay afloat and should not regress on the progress we’ve made.”
As of Monday, restaurants and bars within the county accounted for just 3.1 percent of the 2,257 confirmed COVID-19 cases traced to 204 “outbreak” locations identified by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Comparatively, 7.27 percent of COVID cases were traced back to government agencies, including county entities such as the Los Angeles County Fire Department and the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Officials with the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation estimated that 700,000 jobs in the food industry would be lost in the event of another shutdown, 75 percent of which would be for those earning $50,000 or less.
“Increased case counts are not coming from businesses reopening, but from large gatherings where people aren’t wearing masks,” Barger said. “We aren’t helpless in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and can protect ourselves and our neighbors by maintaining physical distancing and wearing face coverings.”
The meeting was also held after officials with the City of Santa Clarita requested that a public hearing be held before any actions were taken.
“For the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to unilaterally make the decision to close outdoor dining countywide on the eve of Thanksgiving, without any public debate or deliberation, is unconscionable,” a statement issued by the city Monday reads.
Over 200 Santa Clarita businesses had signed on to the Safer Business Commitment as of Monday, pledging to “follow the latest safety guidelines and best practices issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” A full list of those businesses can be viewed here.
On Monday, 138 new cases were reported in the Santa Clarita Valley, with a total of 8,882 cumulative cases of COVID-19 since testing began in March. These include:
- 5,750 in the City of Santa Clarita*
- 213 in the unincorporated areas of Canyon Country
- 2,348 in Castaic*
- 47 in the unincorporated areas of Saugus
- 274 in Stevenson Ranch
- 61 in the unincorporated areas of Valencia
- 118 in the unincorporated areas of Val Verde
- 33 in the unincorporated areas of Newhall
- 16 in the unincorporated areas of Bouquet Canyon
- 12 in the unincorporated areas of Saugus/Canyon Country
- Seven in unincorporated Sand Canyon
- Three in unincorporated San Francisquito Canyon/Bouquet Canyon
*As of Monday, Nov. 22 public health officials have recorded 1,900 cumulative cases have been reported at the Peter J. Pitchess Detention Center, including 1,378 at the North County Correctional Facility. Those cases are distributed between both the City of Santa Clarita and Castaic totals.
An analysis of available data indicates that as of Monday, Nov. 23, approximately 21.4 percent of all cumulative cases in and around the Santa Clarita Valley can be attributed to the inmate population at the North County Correctional Facility and the Pitchess Detention Center.
An update on the number of COVID-19 cases for both Los Angeles County and the Santa Clarita Valley is expected to be released Tuesday afternoon.
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