Councilmembers push for indoor dining amid rising COVID-19 cases

Three Long Beach councilmembers are pushing to get the state to allow limited indoor dining on the same day local and county health officials warned of a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

In a proposal that will be considered at Tuesday’s city council meeting, the council members want to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to allow indoor dining to 25% capacity at restaurants in counties in the purple tier, which is the state’s most restrictive tier. Currently, state rules only allow outdoor and parklet dining for restaurants.

“Long Beach is a major urban city and considering our hospitalization and positivity rates, we are not dissimilar to cities in nearby communities that are in the red tier based on their county designation,” the proposal states. “This reality has produced very unfair and illogical outcomes, given that businesses within two miles of each other, offering the same service and engaged in the same activities, are treated inconsistently.”

The proposal is in stark contrast to the dire picture Long Beach health officials painted Thursday about rising COVID-19 cases, when officials urged residents to stay vigilant, wear masks and avoid “indoor activities that don’t allow for plenty of fresh air to circulate.”

While the item originated from Councilwoman Stacy Mungo’s office, Mungo said she and Councilwoman Suzie Price co-authored the item with Councilman Daryl Supernaw supporting it. All together they represent the entirety of East Long Beach.

Mungo said that she doesn’t view the proposal as a loosening of restrictions for restaurants and that the data depicting a surge doesn’t account for where people actually live. She said that she believed indoor dining could be accomplished safely.

“The statistics are tied to where someone lives and Southern California people are too mobile to have variances between these two counties,” Mungo said, referencing Orange County’s indoor dining which is tied to its designation in the state’s “Red” tier. “We just need to be extra safe and take the precautions that keep people safe while dining.”

Orange County restaurants resumed indoor dining in May but could soon have that right stripped away again in the coming weeks as a surge there threatens to thrust it back into the purple tier.

Mungo added that while case rates are up in the city but the areas bordering Orange County—an area she represents—are stable and below the percentage needed to qualify for indoor dining.

“Further, we need to start the advocacy,” Mungo said. “Over the next several months we will be moving back and forth between the tiers.”

Supernaw pointed out that the item had been in the works for several weeks, so it could’ve been drafted when COVID-19 cases in Long Beach were lower and residents were questioning if why the city had not tried to seek autonomy from the county in order to reopen faster.

“I signed on because I’ve been working hard to support all businesses and in principle I agree, but we’ll have to work out the details at the meeting,” Supernaw said. 

Personal care services were allowed to reopen indoor services three weeks ago with no restrictions on capacity for hair and nail salons, the proposal points out.

“Restaurants should be considered in this conversation,” it says.

Price could not immediately be reached for comment.

Editors note: The story has been updated to show that Councilmembers Stacy Mungo and Suzie Price co-authored the item.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from the Cal State Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband and two cats.
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