Written by CHRISTOPHER WEBER Associated Press
(AP) — Los Angeles County imposed new restrictions on businesses Tuesday and is readying plans for a mandatory curfew for all but essential workers if coronavirus cases keep spiking.
The county of 10 million residents — the nation’s most populous — has seen daily confirmed cases more than double in the last two weeks to nearly 2,900. Hospitalizations have topped 1,100, a rise of 30% in that period.
The county, which for most of the pandemic has had a disproportionately large share of California’s cases, issued new restrictions ordering nonessential retail businesses to limit indoor capacity to 25% and restaurants to 50% capacity outdoors. Restaurants already are not allowed to serve customers indoors.
All those businesses must close at 10 p.m. The changes take effect Friday.
Additionally, services at salons and other personal care businesses may only be provided by appointment and customers and staff must wear face coverings. Services such as facials that require customers to remove their face coverings are not permitted.
All gatherings must be outdoors and limited to 15 people from no more than three households.
The county also warned of increasingly restrictive policies if cases keep rising. If the five-day average of cases tops 4,000 or hospitalizations are above 1,750 per day, outdoor restaurant dining will be banned.
If cases reach 4,500 per day or hospitalizations top 2,000, the county will impose a three-week lockdown that will restrict people to their homes for all but essential services. A nighttime curfew for all but essential workers would run from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“Los Angeles County is at a critical moment to save lives and curb the spread of COVID-19,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of public health. “Lives and livelihoods are at stake and our entire community will be affected by our collective action if we do the right thing.”
Further restrictions could be a death knell for restaurants already struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, said Jot Condie, president of the California Restaurant Association.
“Indoor dining at restaurants has been closed in Los Angeles since March — yet, coronavirus cases are spiking. What evidence do they have citing outdoor dining as a major source of the spread?” Condie said in a statement Tuesday evening.
The county’s announcement came a day after California Gov. Gavin Newsom deployed an “emergency brake” on 28 counties and moved them into the most restrictive of four tiers for reopening. Those counties joined Los Angeles and 13 others already at that level, and together they account for 94% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday urged 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.”
Most states are seeing huge surges of coronavirus cases and imposing new restrictions. On Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a three-week statewide curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. for most residents.