Director of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer said that she and members of the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors will gather on Wednesday to discuss further possible COVID-19 restrictions.
Pressed on what a new stay-at-home mandate from the county could contain, Dr. Ferrer on Monday tried to avoid controversy in a region already on the edge. “We’ll just have to wait and see what the board decides to do tomorrow,” the public health official diplomatically said.
At the same time, any new restrictions may already have an opponent in one of the county’s most powerful politicians. Supervisor Kathryn Barger declared on Monday that she was against the move to shut down outdoor dining and other moves.
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“These proposed measures by the Department of Public Health will further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year,” the 5th district representative stated. “Increased case counts are not coming from businesses reopening, but from large gatherings where people aren’t wearing masks,” Barger added. “We aren’t helpless in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and can protect ourselves and our neighbors by maintaining physical distancing and wearing face coverings.”
Barger will of course be a participant in tomorrow’s likely high stakes meeting.
Data shows the surge in cases isn't coming from dining out, but from large social gatherings. Businesses have already made incredible sacrifices to align with safety protocols to remain open in order to pay their bills and feed their families. Read more: https://t.co/MzSHKVLWvD pic.twitter.com/QBXUD7Q0NW
— Supervisor Kathryn Barger (@kathrynbarger) November 23, 2020
One other board member, Janice Hahn, expressed concern about the in-person dining ban Sunday night.
“While I know our case counts are growing rapidly, I would have rather discussed this measure openly during our Board of Supervisors meeting so that the public could understand the rationale behind it,” Hahn wrote on her Twitter page. “Some of these restaurants are barely hanging on. I hope this isn’t the last nail in their coffins. I wish we could have figured out a way to put in more restrictions rather than completely shutting down dining.”
Ferrer insisted in her Monday media briefing that the board was fully apprised last week of the planned restrictions, including the end to in-person dining, and the county publicly announced the plans in a news release issued last Tuesday.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl echoed that sentiment, telling City News Service the board was in full agreement last Tuesday about the ban.
“All five of us agreed,” Kuehl said. “So I was surprised to hear that Kathryn (Barger) had taken it upon herself to individually express opposition. I don’t see any support for that position anywhere and certainly, I don’t support it.
“Outdoor dining is probably more dangerous in terms of contagion than any other kind of business,” Kuehl said. “People sit for hours with no masks on” and while they may be distant from other tables, they are in close proximity to servers and patrons walking by.”
Whether the board will look to undo the planned health restrictions on Tuesday remained a mystery.
“The Board of Supervisors will make their own decisions tomorrow(Tuesday) and anything is always possible,” Ferrer said. “They’re elected and in fact they can make a lot of different decisions as a board.”
The news of the looming meeting follows as the County identifies 6,124 new positive cases on Monday alone, marking the first time Los Angeles county has reached that 6,000 case mark.
“We’ve never reported 6,000 cases in one day, we’ve never reporter over 3,200 cases in one day until last week,” Ferrer said during Monday’s briefing.
Orange County also reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Monday, along with a jump in hospitalizations, causing some concern among local officials on how to get the message out to the public to discourage holiday get-togethers and other fraternizing. The county reported 1,422 new COVID-19 diagnoses. It had been averaging well under 1,000 a day before last week.
Ferrer’s comments also came a day after officials announced COVID-19 restrictions which once again halt in-person dining for restaurants, wineries and breweries, limiting the first to pick-up, take-out and drive-thru and the latter two solely to retail.
In addition detailing the county’s latest numbers, which include eight new deaths and 1,473 hospitalizations, Ferrer spoke extensively about the latest restrictions surrounding restaurants and discussed the potential dangers of holiday travel.
On Sunday Los Angeles County officials announced that restaurants, wineries and breweries will halt in-person dining (including outdoor seating) for at least three weeks starting this Wednesday. While such public places may continue to operate for solely pick-up, drive-thru and/or delivery, Ferrer said that the county found multiple Los Angeles restaurants violating COVID-19 restrictions, mostly proper social distancing.
Though the restrictions may put restaurant owners in a bind, the prolonged time patrons spend without their masks, sometimes with people beyond their households, pose increased risks for COVID-19 transmissions, Ferrer said. Along that same line, social gatherings like Thanksgiving dinner can also put many people at risk this week.
“The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to celebrate at home with the people you live with,” Ferrer cautioned. “Even if you’re out doors, gathering with ppl you do not live with increases risks of getting or transmitting COVID.”
With case and death numbers surpassing those of the summer months and restrictions, including a curfew, back in place, many Los Angeles residents feel there hasn’t been much advancement when it comes to combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Ferrer reassured Angelenos that multiple measures have put the county in a better place.
“I know for sure we’re not going back to all of the restrictions that were in place in the original safer-at-home order,” Ferrer said. “For one thing, we’ve learned a lot more. We have much more capacity on testing now, which allows us to do a better job quickly identifying people who are positive. And to everyone’s credit, this is a county that when we had a surge before was able to, in fact, get back to slowing the spread.”
She also referred to news about potential vaccines, noting that the advancement may help things look different next year.
“We do have a very bright light at the end of this long tunnel with promising news of effective vaccines and we know that we’ll be in a different place next year,” she said. “This year though we have to continue to ask of everyone, individuals and businesses to own their part in slowing the spread of COVID-19 so we can stop the surge in cases and ultimately get back to recovery.”
To date Los Angels County has identified a total of 370,636 positive COVID-19 cases and has reported 7,446 deaths tied to the infectious disease.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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