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L.A. County cuts hours of some businesses, limits size of outdoor gatherings to battle COVID-19

Karen Alvarez comforts her 3-year-old daughter, Mercedez Gomez.
Karen Alvarez comforts her 3-year-old daughter, Mercedez Gomez, as they wait in line at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX before their flight to Nicaragua on Monday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In an effort to battle a dangerous surge in COVID-19 cases, Los Angeles County officials announced Tuesday evening new limits on hours of operation for some businesses, while also limiting the size of outdoor gatherings.

Officials also warned that if cases and hospitalizations continue to surge, more extreme measures would be taken in the coming weeks, including limiting restaurants to pick-up orders and some type of return to the “safer at home” order that would “only allow essential workers and those securing essential services to leave their homes.”

Starting Friday, restaurants, breweries, bars, wineries and nonessential retail establishments must close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Additionally, outdoor social gatherings — the only type allowed — will be limited to three households, with a maximum of 15 people.

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Businesses currently allowed to operate indoors — including retail, offices and personal-care establishments — will be limited to 25% capacity.

Restaurants, breweries and wineries operating outdoors will be limited to 50% capacity, as will card rooms and outdoor mini-golf, go-karts and batting cages.

Health officials issued new rules this week requiring residents to wear face coverings whenever they’re outside of their homes, with few exceptions.

Personal-care establishments will be required to provide services by appointment only, and everyone will be required to wear a mask, meaning facials and shaves are banned. Food and drinks cannot be served to customers at these establishments.

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The L.A. County Board of Supervisors discussed the order in a closed session meeting Tuesday and did not provide details about the discussion afterward. For the past few weeks, the supervisors have discussed the order at their public meetings.

The new restrictions come in response to surging COVID-19 caseloads.

“Lives and livelihoods are at stake, and our entire community will be affected by our collective action if we do the right thing,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.

More stringent requirements will be implemented if L.A. County’s numbers do not improve. If the five-day average of cases in the county becomes 4,500 or more, or there are more than 2,000 hospitalizations per day, the county will implement an order allowing only essential workers and those securing essential services to leave their homes.

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Additionally, a countywide curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. would be mandated, with essential workers exempt.

L.A. County’s adjusted coronavirus case rate has nearly doubled, from 7.6 new cases per 100,000 residents last week to 13.7 new cases per 100,000 residents this week. And the rate of positivity for coronavirus tests is substantially up, at 5.3%, compared with 3.8% last week.

One major problem, officials say, is groups of young adults who get tested on a Thursday in hopes of getting negative results by Saturday morning, then having a party Saturday night. Such tests provide a false sense of security — and engaging in this practice can result in the gathering becoming a super-spreading event.

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“It’s a false narrative,” Ferrer said Monday. “Your test result that you got Saturday morning was from Thursday, when you got tested, and it said, ‘On Thursday, you were negative.’ It says nothing about whether you’re still negative on Saturday.”

Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday called on residents to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread.

“This is a different kind of moment, a new level of danger,” Garcetti said. “If we don’t make these decisions now, there really is only one outcome: We will almost certainly have to shut things down again. And more people will get sick and die.

“We must stay at home as much as possible for the next two to three weeks, except for accessing essential services, food and outdoor exercise,” he added.

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County supervisors took Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration to task for the recent reclassification that sent the county into the state’s most restrictive reopening tier.

Across California, coronavirus cases are surging at an unprecedented pace, even worse than the second surge of the year, in the summer. Weekly coronavirus infections across California are now nearly 150% worse than they were a month ago, according to a Times analysis, rising from about 22,600 to 56,000 for the seven-day period that ended Sunday.

Hospitalizations statewide are up 51% over the same period. And the statewide rate at which coronavirus tests are coming back positive is now 5%, nearly double that of a month ago, when it was 2.6%. Deaths are expected to climb.

Times staff writers Rong-Gong Lin and Luke Money contributed to this report.


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