With Coronavirus Cases Spiking, Bars Close Again in Los Angeles

The county’s seven-day average positivity rate for testing increased from 5.8 percent two weeks ago to 8.7 percent Sunday

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Following several spikes in regional coronavirus cases, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Sunday that bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles, must close again — marking at least the first major backtrack on the county’s “Roadmap to Recovery.”

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The state ordered bars to close in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, L.A., San Joaquin, and Tulare counties; and recommended bars close in Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus, and Ventura counties. Establishments offering dine-in meals are still allowed to remain open with restrictions. 

The action is a sign of the struggles that will continue to hinder certain types of tenants due to the nature of their operations amid a global pandemic, mandated restrictions, and social distancing guidelines. 

L.A. entered the third phase of reopening its economy earlier this month by relaxing its shelter-in-place orders, which was followed by officials allowing businesses like bars, spas, and nail salons to reopen. But according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, there has been a sharp increase in new cases and hospitalizations, and the timing is in line with the reopening of key sectors like bars, where people remove their face coverings to drink and socialize.

The state has at least 211,243 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the California Department of Public Health, with 5,905 deaths. Officials in L.A. County, where there have been 97,894 total cases and 3,305 deaths, said weekly hospitalization and positivity rates increased over the past couple weeks. The county announced 2,542 new cases on Sunday alone, with more than 1,700 people currently hospitalized, which is more than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen in recent weeks. The seven-day average positivity rate for coronavirus testing has increased from 5.8 percent two weeks ago to 8.7 percent Sunday.

Bars present a higher likelihood of transmission of the coronavirus among patrons and the workforce, officials said. There has been increasing concern from health professionals who identify bars as the highest-risk sector of non-essential business currently open. According to officials. there is a growing body of evidence tracing large outbreaks to bars.

“While it’s disappointing to take a step back on our economic recovery journey, it’s critical that we protect the health of our residents and protect the capacity in our healthcare system,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for L.A. County. “I implore that our residents and businesses follow the public health directives that will keep us healthy, safe and on the pathway to recovery. Otherwise, we are quickly moving toward overwhelming our healthcare system and seeing even more devastating illness and death.”

Officials had emphasized the need for authorities to be able to reverse decisions to reopen if there were spikes in transmission or hospitalizations. When the retail sector reopened in L.A. County about a month ago, Supervisor Janice Hahn said it “is a fine line that we’re walking in the county of L.A.”

Ferrer said Sunday that L.A. County residents should “stay home as much as possible,” but when they are out and around others, it is important to practice physical distancing and properly wear a cloth face covering at all times.