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Letters to the Editor: We won’t know for a long time if the dining ban slowed the COVID surge

Pedestrians walk near a sign advertising patio dining at 2nd Floor Huntington Beach on Main Street on Jan. 26.
Pedestrians walk near a sign advertising patio dining at 2nd Floor Huntington Beach on Main Street on Jan. 26.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: As a physician scientist, I found the print headline, “Dining ban helped flatten curve,” to be misleading. (“California’s outdoor dining ban was controversial. Did it help slow the COVID-19 surge?” Feb. 1)

When the stay-home order was issued in November, it included prohibitions on nonessential travel and outdoor social gatherings, and it closed salons, museums and outdoor dining. As the article states, “Scientists say that they cannot tease out which part of the order was most effective in turning the tide.”

But the article then says, “But several leading public health experts interviewed by The Times agreed that the outdoor dining ban probably played a key role.” In short, there is no way for experts to say with any certainty which portion of the order was more effective than another, hence this appears to be pure speculation on the part of the experts.

Further, as California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly is quoted in the article as saying, in regard to the risks of outdoor dining, this kind of knowledge “usually takes years to figure out.”

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Scientifically speaking, no conclusion can be drawn at this time, but The Times appears intent on furthering a particular policy agenda.

Philip K. Frykman, M.D., Malibu

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To the editor: I am an octogenarian. My husband passed away in 2019.

I have been at home for many months now. I have not seen my children, my grandchildren or my great grandchildren. I haven’t seen my friends or others.

The decision to reopen certain businesses in Los Angeles is irresponsible and seems motivated by politics. I have a very few years ahead, so if I can give up my freedom temporarily to save lives, I would think young people with their longer lives ahead of them could help stop this virus too.

Phyllis Higgins, Los Angeles

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To the editor: Ghaly says it usually takes years to figure out whether data can justify eliminating outdoor dining. Unlike restaurant owners and employees, he can afford to be patient because his livelihood is not at risk.

He claims there is proof to justify the ban, but it’s just not the proof that people want to see. Imagine Ghaly’s reaction if an accrediting body pulled his medical license and he was told there was proof justifying the decision, but it was not the proof he would want to see.

Perhaps Ghaly should gather some data by speaking to the people whose lives he is so seriously affecting.

Gerry Swider, Sherman Oaks


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