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L.A. County adopts further restrictions on public and private gatherings to slow spread of virus

A large crowd of people at an outdoor shopping mall
Shoppers crowd at the Citadel Outlets in Commerce on Friday. L.A. County’s new restrictions that take effect Monday will limit retail stores’ occupancy but will not close them.
(Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times)

As the number of new coronavirus cases continued to rise in Los Angeles County, health officials issued a temporary and limited stay-at-home order Friday that will take effect Monday.

The restrictions, which will last for three weeks, are not as severe as those imposed in the spring.

“Residents are advised to stay home as much as possible and always wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are outside their household and around others,” the county Department of Public Health said.

The order prohibits all public and private gatherings with individuals not in the same household, except for religious services and protests.

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It imposes new occupancy limits on businesses, such as personal care and retail, but does not close them. Beaches, trails and parks will remain open, but gatherings of people from more than one household at those sites are banned.

The announcement came just two days after restaurants in much of L.A. County were ordered to suspend outdoor dining. That decision sparked a backlash from restaurant owners and some elected officials, who called the rules too punishing for the already struggling industry.

In L.A. County, gathering with people outside your household is prohibited starting Monday. Businesses and playgrounds are further restricted too.

Officials had warned new restrictions were coming.

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The five-day average of new cases hit 4,751 Friday, crossing the threshold the county had set for imposition of a modified stay-at-home order.

Officials are concerned that hospitals could see a shortage of beds — especially in intensive care units — over the next two to four weeks if these trends continue. But hospitals are better equipped now than they were in the spring to handle a surge in cases, treatment for COVID-19 has significantly improved, and hospitals can cancel elective surgeries to make more room.

Countywide COVID-19 hospitalizations have already more than doubled in just three weeks, from about 800 on Halloween to nearly 1,900 Friday.

At Skylight Books in Los Feliz, events manager Madeline Gobbo said the county’s new capacity limits would not make a difference because the shop allows only 10 customers at a time to browse the aisles.

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Author events have gone virtual, and the store is doing a good online business. Still, since reopening, Skylight has enjoyed “a steady stream of customers every day, all day,” she said. “If people stay at home and stop coming out to shop, that will be bad news for us.”

County authorities, Gobbo added, are giving mixed messages. “Telling people to stay home but then also telling them to keep supporting small businesses — that’s kind of a Catch-22.”

At Monsieur Marcel Gourmet Market and Restaurant in the Original Farmers Market, owner Stephane Strouk said cutting shop capacity to 35% will mean longer customer waits but probably would not hurt his market business, which is a bit better than it was before the pandemic began.

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But it was a major blow when he had to close the restaurant’s dining patio this week. He kept some cooks to prepare takeout dishes but had to let go waiters, busboys and dishwashers — 16 employees in all.

Diners had been gradually returning to the French restaurant, which is his operation’s biggest source of revenue. “We did everything we could” to maintain safety protocols, Strouk said, adding that he didn’t think the county-ordered restaurant closings were justified.

“It’s touching so many people.”

L.A. County public health officials on Saturday announced they will issue an order suspending outdoor dining at restaurants amid a surge of new coronavirus cases.

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The new order, which will remain in effect through Dec. 20, sets the following occupancy limits:

  • Essential retail stores are capped at 35% of maximum occupancy, and nonessential retail, such as indoor malls, personal care services and libraries, at 20%.
  • Outdoor fitness centers, museums, galleries, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, mini-golf, batting cages and outdoor go-kart racing are capped at 50%.
  • Golf courses, tennis courts, pickleball, archery ranges, skate parks, bike parks and community gardens remain open for individuals or members of a single household. Swimming pools that serve more than one household may open only for regulated lap swimming.
  • Drive-in movie venues remain open. Cardrooms are closed.

The order does not change reopening protocols for schools and day camps.

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


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