Outdoor dining in Echo Park during pandemic

Sidewalk dining in Echo Park. L.A. restaurants and bars will have to end outdoor service for three weeks starting Nov. 25.

Los Angeles County will once again prohibit dining at restaurants and bars beginning Wednesday, Nov. 25 as the recent spike in COVID- 19 has brought the five-day average of new cases to more than 4,000, health officials said today.

To reduce the possibility for crowding and the potential for exposures in settings where people are not wearing their face coverings, the county's Health Officer Order will be modified so that restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will only be able to offer take-out, drive thru, and delivery services.

The order will apply for a minimum of three weeks.

The same businesses had already been prohibited from offering indoor service under previous health department orders.

Officials warned of the possibility of such measures last week, as new cases and hospitalizations continued to surge in Los Angeles County and statewide. They follow a statewide "soft curfew" that went into effect Saturday prohibiting all "nonessential work, movement and gatherings" between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., continuing until the morning of Dec. 21.

Today, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 2,718 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 364,520 cases and 7,438 fatalities. The previous three days had each seen more than 4,000 cases reported, including a single-day record of 5,031 cases on Thursday.

If the five-day average of cases grows to 4,500 or more or hospitalizations are more than 2,000 per day, a Targeted Safer at Home Order will be issued for three weeks, the health department said. That order would offer additional restrictions while allowing essential and emergency workers and those securing essential services to leave their homes.

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The number of county residents hospitalized with the virus increased from 1,391 Saturday to 1,401, with 26% in intensive care. That's more than double the daily number in the beginning of October, when it was under 700.

The department reminded everyone to stay home as much as possible for the next two to three weeks to change the trajectory of surging cases and save lives, and repeated its advice that people not travel for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

"The persistent high number of cases requires additional safety measures that limit mixing in settings where people are not wearing masks," said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

"We hope individuals continue to support restaurants, breweries and wineries by ordering for take-out or delivery.

"Unfortunately, if our cases and hospitalizations continue to increase, we will need to issue further restrictions to protect our healthcare system and prevent more deaths," Ferrer said.

Ferrer also noted that the surge in cases is not just the result of increased testing. She said the county's rising rate of positive tests shows that the virus is spreading more rapidly.

The county's seven-day average daily positivity rate among those tested for the virus was 3.9% on Nov. 1, but it rose to 5.1% by Nov. 8 and stood at 7.1%. as of Saturday.

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