LA County restricts in-person dining due to COVID-19 cases

Demonstrators march across Pacific Coast Highway Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 during a protest against a stay-at-home order amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Huntington Beach, Calif. California health officials are restricting overnight activities starting Saturday night, though there are plenty of exceptions. They're calling it a limited stay-at-home order designed to stem the rapidly spreading coronavirus by discouraging social gatherings. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Los Angeles County announced new coronavirus-related restrictions Sunday that will prohibit in-person dining for at least three weeks as cases rise at the start of the holiday season and officials statewide begged Californians to avoid travelling or gathering in groups for Thanksgiving.

The new restrictions in Los Angeles County — the nation's most populous — came as the California Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 15,000 coronavirus cases statewide Saturday — by far the highest level since the pandemic began in March. Another 14,000 cases were recorded Sunday.

California’s average daily number of coronavirus cases has tripled in the last month, the Los Angeles Times found in an analysis, while COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled in the same time period.

A curfew that affects most of the state took effect Saturday requiring people to stay home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. unless they are responding to an emergency, shopping for groceries, picking up takeout or walking their dogs. The monthlong curfew could be extended if rapidly worsening trends don’t improve.

Authorities say the focus is on keeping people from social mixing and drinking without masks on — the kinds of activities that are blamed for causing COVID-19 infections to soar after dipping only a few months ago. They also have warned against Thanksgiving travel or mixing of several households.

LA County's new rules take effect Wednesday at 10 p.m. Restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars will only be able to offer takeout, drive-thru and delivery services.

County officials had warned that these restrictions could come if the county's five-day average of new cases was above 4,000 or hospitalizations were more than 1,750 per day. Sunday's five-day average was 4,097 cases and there were 1,401 hospitalizations.

Los Angeles County officials are on the verge of announcing even more stringent measures, including a possible lockdown if cases climb further.

The state curfew applies to 41 of the state’s 58 counties that are in the “purple” tier, the most restrictive of four tiers allowing various stages of economic reopening. Those counties encompass 94% of the nearly 40 million people living in the most populous U.S. state.

Sabrina Urias, general manager of Old Wagon Saloon & Grill in downtown San Jose, told The San Francisco Chronicle that the curfew will likely affect the business's busiest hours in the late evening.

“We’re here every day. We see people breaking these rules, and we’re trying our best to enforce it. We see people not wearing a mask," she said. "So unless you deal with (the) public, you won’t understand this. It’s frustrating for us — our hours got cut. But if everybody would just follow the rules that are given to us for ourselves and our family, customers and everything, I truly believe that there will be a better outcome.”

A group gathered in Huntington Beach at 10:01 p.m. Saturday night in defiance of the curfew, waving American flags and not wearing masks. More than 100 people rallied Saturday in downtown Fresno, urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to “open California safely."

San Francisco's coronavirus figures could push it into the purple tier as early as Sunday.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.

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