signs of coronavirus closures on restaurants and bars 3-5-2020 6-09-47 PM.JPG

Little Joy bar in Echo Park.

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

The order comes less only about two weeks after bars were allowed to re-open on a limited basis.

Underscoring the warnings from the state, L.A. County officials released their daily coronavirus update a few hours later, and it showed another 2,542 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 20 additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 97,894 cases and 3,305 fatalities.

Newsom, in a Tweet, blamed "the rising spread of #COVID19" for 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 counties. 

Newsom did not say when the bar closures will go into effect. However, the L.A. Times says the order is effective immediately. 

"We are actively monitoring COVID-19 across the state and working closely with counties where there are increased rates and concerning patterns of transmission," said Dr. Sonia Angell, the state's public health director. "Closing bars in these counties is one of a number of targeted actions counties are implementing across our state to slow the virus' spread and reduce risk."

Bars that serve sit-down meals can continue to serve alcohol as part of the meal, according to state guidelines.

Those guidelines identify bars as among the riskiest non-essential businesses to reopen during the pandemic for a variety of factors.   

"Alcohol consumption slows brain activity, reduces inhibition, and impairs judgment, factors which contribute to reduced compliance with recommended core personal protective measures, such as the mandatory use of face coverings and maintaining six feet of distance from people outside of one’s own household," the guidelines said. "Louder environments and the cacophony of conversation that are typical in bar settings, also require raised voices and greater projection of oral emitted viral droplets."

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti offered support for the move, tweeting: "As we started reopening more businesses, we cautioned that we may need to change course to protect public health from this deadly virus. I support @CAGovernor's order to close bars in L.A. County and other counties to limit the spread of COVID-19."

Los Angeles County officials have reported "significant increases" in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates in recent days, including Sunday's 2,542 cases and 2,169 cases reported Saturday.

"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 Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County's director of public health. "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."

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 1,717 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 8.7%.

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