Newsom orders many indoor operations to halt in 19 counties, including L.A. County

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Several categories of businesses and organizations in Los Angeles County and 18 other counties on California’s watch list must immediately halt indoor operations, such as restaurant dining, for the next three weeks, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. 

“We have specifically targeted our efforts to close indoor operations,” he said during a live state broadcast, defining that indoor operations include “restaurants, wineries, tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment … zoos, museums, and courtrooms.” Cardrooms and satellite wagering facilities also fall under the order. 

Other counties affected by the order include Ventura, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Orange, Fresno and some in the Bay Area. The 19 total make up about 70% of the state’s population. 

Businesses may modify their operations to provide outdoor services or pickup. Bars, breweries and pubs must close, both indoor and outdoor, state officials said.  

Los Angeles County released its modified health order Wednesday to reflect the state’s latest directive. Department of Public Health officials clarified via email that restrictions “are for indoor dining, which included indoor food courts. Shopping and house of worship directives have not changed.”

Modifications also require businesses, with three or more known cases of COVID-19 within the workplace over the span of 14 days, to report the outbreak to the county’s Department of Public Health. Employers with one known case must implement a protocol that requires the infected person to self-isolate at home, as well as those exposed. 

“Gov. Newsom is tasked with balancing the health of residents and economic resiliency,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger in a prepared statement. “I know these closures could affect Santa Clarita Valley businesses and workers, and L.A. County stands ready to support them with resources. I hope by taking a step back for the next few weeks, we can slow down this virus that is still very present in our communities.”

With guidance from the state, L.A. County had greenlighted dine-in services in late May but some sectors in the list Newsom announced Wednesday, such as movie theaters and family entertainment centers, have remained closed for months. Bars, breweries and wineries were allowed to reopen starting June 19 before the state mandated them to close again.

Newsom had warned Tuesday that he would announce tightening restrictions as COVID-19 cases increase across the state, which has prompted the state to toggle back on further reopenings and instead scale back, ordering counties to shut down bars and beaches ahead of the July 4 weekend. 

California has nearly 233,000 COVID-19 cases confirmed to date, a figure that has risen close north of 50% over the past 14 days as the state has increased its testing capacity of more than 105,000 daily tests. More than 4.2 million tests have been conducted statewide. 

State officials have expressed concern around the positivity and hospitalization rates trending upward in the 14-day average. On Wednesday, Newsom announced that the positivity rate had increased from 4.6% to 6% over the past two weeks. 

“(The) bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning. We’re seeing parts of the state, where we are seeing an increase in not only the total number of positive cases but a significant increase in the total number of people that are getting tested that are testing positive, meaning the positivity rate, not just the total case rate, is beginning to go up,” Newsom said Wednesday. 

Los Angeles County, one of the 19 counties on the state’s coronavirus watch list, has seen record surges over the past days, with Sunday marking the single largest one-day spike since the start of the outbreak, at 2,903 cases, and Wednesday with an additional 2,002. Diagnoses in the Santa Clarita Valley, where a majority of cases are attributed to an outbreak at the Pitchess Detention Center, have also steadily climbed, averaging about 42 new cases daily over the past five days. 

Newsom said pausing indoor operations aims to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as it relates to airflow issues when people congregate indoors. 

“By the way, some of these actions as you’ve seen in other states across the country, again, based upon our information that come back from our health directors and from evidence that has been grounded and provided to us all across the world, not just across the rest of the nation, as it relates to the unique characteristics of being indoors for an extended period of time, and airflow issues in the prospect of increased transmission of COVID-19,” he said. 

The governor also announced Wednesday the establishment of enforcement strike teams to target workplaces not complying with the latest state directive. Teams include CalOSHA, the Department of Business Oversight, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the California Highway Patrol. 

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