Newsom Orders Bars To Close In LA County As Coronavirus Rebounds

Nick Garber

LOS ANGELES, CA — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered Los Angeles and six other counties to immediately close all bars and other nightclubs, citing the rebounding rates of coronavirus infections across much of the state.

In a statement issued by state public health director Dr. Sonia Angell, bars are ordered to close in Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Imperial counties. Later Sunday afternoon, the governor's office clarified that bars were already closed in Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Imperial and San Joaquin counties, and that the state is now asking them to stay closed.

The county public health department said it would heed Newsom's directive and order bars to shut down.

"The County Health Officer Order will be amended today to require that all bars, breweries, brew pubs, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms in L.A. County close unless they are offering sit-down dine-in meals," the department said in a news release. "This includes closing bar areas in restaurants."

Los Angeles County officials have reported "significant increases" in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates in recent days, including 2,169 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths reported Saturday.

In addition, Newsom is recommending that eight other counties seeing elevated rates of COVID-19 issue local orders closing bars: Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus counties.

The counties being ordered to close bars have been on the state's watch list for more than 14 days, while those being asked to shutter bars have been on the list for between three and 14 days.

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“COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger,” Newsom wrote. “That’s why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases.”

In the news release, state health officials explained the rationale for singling out bars for closure, describing them as uniquely high-risk environments. Alcohol consumption can impair judgment, leading people to ignore requirements for face coverings and social distancing, the state said.

Plus, they are often noisy, requiring people to raise their voices and risk spreading virus-infected droplets between groups, according to officials. Contact tracing is also harder among bar patrons, since customers mix frequently and records often aren’t kept.

“Public health professionals within California and throughout the nation have identified bars as the highest risk sector of non-essential business currently open,” the state said Sunday.

In recent days, state officials have expressed growing concern over increasing rates of community transmission of COVID-19 as California reopens much of its economy.

The state has seen rising rates of positive tests, including 5,972 new cases and 60 deaths reported Saturday, and growing numbers of people hospitalized after contracting the virus.

Newsom responded to the trend on June 18 by mandating face coverings in all public places or when social distancing can't be maintained, minus a few exceptions.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Full coronavirus coverage: Coronavirus In California: What To Know

This article originally appeared on the Hollywood Patch