Long Beach and LA County bars ordered to close as COVID-19 cases spike

Gov. Gavin Newsom today ordered bars in Los Angeles County and six other counties to close to help prevent further spread of the coronavirus, as the state experiences a surge in new cases and evidence of rising community transmission.

“NEW: Due to the rising spread of #COVID19, CA is ordering bars to close in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin, and Tulare, while recommending they close in Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, & Ventura,” Newsom tweeted at 12:17 p.m.

In a statement, Long Beach said the mandatory closure goes into effect at midnight. All brewpubs, craft distilleries, breweries, bars, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms must close if they don’t have a restaurant permit. Any of those facilities that have restaurant permits will be allowed to stay open but the bar area and any seating in it must be closed off, officials said.

Long Beach is included in Newsom’s order even though it has its own health department separate from LA County.

Long Beach partnered with the county to apply for a regional variance to help speed reopenings, as have most other parts of the state. However, even if Long Beach were evaluated separately from the rest of LA County, its latest benchmarks would have triggered a mandatory closure, city officials said.

Recently, Long Beach has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, including a jump in cases in people in their 20s and 30s. As of Saturday, the city had reported 700 new positive cases in just the last five days, which is a steeper increase than in previous weeks, bringing the total cases to 3,643.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted his support of the decision to close bars, saying “We must continue to prioritize public health.

As for LA County as a whole, officials have reported “significant increases” in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates in recent days, including 2,169 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths reported Saturday.

Those numbers brought the county’s totals to 95,371 cases and 3,285 fatalities. In Long Beach, 125 people have died, mostly in connection with long-term care facilities.

According the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the seven-day average of daily new cases is more than 1,900, an increase from the 1,379 average two weeks ago. There are 1,698 people currently hospitalized, which is higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen in recent weeks.

And, with test results now available for more than one million individuals, 9% are testing positive. The cumulative positivity rate has increased from 8% to 9%, and the seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% two weeks ago to 8.6%.

Some officials have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said repeatedly in recent days that the metrics clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Health officials said Friday the rise in cases hitting the county’s younger population particularly hard—likely reflecting reopenings of bars and restaurants and participation in this month’s mass demonstrations against police brutality.

Bars in Long Beach and LA County had been open for just more than a week before Newsom ordered them shuttered again. Long Beach and LA County moved more slowly on that front than other nearby regions, waiting until June 19 to let drinking establishments and nightclubs resume operations.

Ferrer said Thursday that residents and business owners—most notably bars and restaurants—have a joint responsibility to adhere to health requirements and protocols. She noted that over the three recent weekends after restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for dine-in service, county inspectors visited more than 3,700 establishments, and 83% of them were found not to be in full compliance with county protocols for reopening.

Ferrer said that over the past two months, the largest percentage of complaints the Department of Public Health received about restaurants and other businesses were violations of the requirement that safety protocols be publicly posted at each establishment and distributed to employees. The second most common complaint was people not wearing face coverings.

“Business owners, we ask that you too do your part,” Ferrer said Thursday. “Our guidelines are not suggestions. They are mandates. If you see someone in your business that’s not wearing a face covering, take action. If you see large groups of people congregating in your business, question whether those folks truly came from the same household and take action. Ask them to step away from each other.

“I know this is difficult. It’s summer, restaurants and bars are open and things seem like they’re back to normal, but they’re not. The virus is deadly. The virus remains in our community and if we don’t collectively take the necessary steps to be safe we’ll continue to see people we love get sick, be hospitalized and potentially die.”

Officials are also warning the public about reports of phony mask exemption cards that depict a government seal with threatening language.

“Everyone, except children under the age of 2, should wear a face covering securely over their nose and mouth any time they leave the house and keep six feet apart from others not in your household when out and about,” a health department statement said.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with more information from the city of Long Beach.

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