Amid surge in coronavirus cases, L.A. County suspends outdoor dining

Catherine Garcia

With the number of new coronavirus cases soaring in Los Angeles County, public health officials announced on Sunday that starting Wednesday at 10 p.m., outdoor dining at restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries in the county will be suspended for at least three weeks.

"The persistent high number of cases requires additional safety measures that limit mixing in settings where people are not wearing masks," Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County health director, said in a statement.

The establishments will only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery, with wineries and breweries also permitted to sell their products. The restaurant industry has been hit hard in L.A. County, and most spots have enhanced their patios or turned their parking lots into dining areas, adding tables, tents, and heaters in order to attract more customers.

Since late October, the number of coronavirus cases has been accelerating faster than it did in July, the county's peak. Last week, health officials said if the five-day average of new cases topped 4,000 or if COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 1,750 per day, outdoor dining would be put on hold. On Sunday, the five-day average hit 4,097. There were 1,473 confirmed coronavirus patients hospitalized in L.A. County on Saturday, up about 92 percent from a month before, the Los Angeles Times reports. As of Sunday, L.A. County has recorded 364,520 coronavirus cases and 7,438 deaths.

Michael Simhai owns the restaurant Della Terra in Los Angeles, and he told the Times the outdoor dining suspension will "be horrible for my staff. They can't get unemployment. ... They work paycheck to paycheck. What are we going to do?" Simhai said he purchased heaters and other items for his patio to keep diners warm this winter, "thinking that in the holiday season, we'd make money. All that money I spent, I can't recover it." Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

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