Los Angeles County is suspending outdoor dining for the foreseeable future as coronavirus cases surge in the region and across the country.
The order from the public health department will force restaurants, wineries and breweries into a takeout and delivery-only model for the first time since May. It will remain in effect for at least three weeks, though it could last longer.
If cases keep rising, the county will impose even stricter rules, including a “targeted” stay-at-home order for three weeks. Residents are currently urged to stay home as much as possible.
Public health officials made the announcement on Sunday, and the order will be effective on Wednesday.
County officials warned last week that if the five-day average of cases surpassed 4,000 or hospitalizations hit 1,750 per day, in-person dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars would be restricted.
The five-day average reached 4,097 on Sunday, according to the Department of Public Health, and hospitalizations stood at 1,401. Over the past 7 days, the number of hospitalized patients increased by nearly 35 percent.
The announcement of restrictions is the second to hit the battered California restaurant industry in as many weeks.
Last week, restaurants were ordered to limit outdoor capacity to 50 percent, and outdoor gatherings were restricted to 15 people.
Indoor dining has been banned in Los Angeles since the July Fourth weekend.
Nonessential businesses must close for outdoor dining and shopping at 10 p.m. as part of an overnight curfew, but restaurants can still offer takeout. However, there is not much evidence to show that curfews have an impact in limiting the spread of the coronavirus.
Health experts generally agree the risk of a COVID-19 infection from dining indoors is much higher than dining outdoors, and many restaurants have invested heavily in safe outdoor spaces ahead of winter.
There is also a concern that closing outdoor dining will push people to gather in larger groups inside private homes. Some states have already imposed restrictions on private gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving, but it’s not clear how they can enforce the rules.