Amid COVID-19 case surge, heath department enacts restrictions

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

In response to a seemingly out of control outbreak of the coronavirus, public health officials issued new restrictive orders on local businesses this week, but stopped short of authorizing another stay-at-home order.

Last week health officials enacted a curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in an effort to blunt the rise in cases, but said a more restrictive order would be implemented as soon as the five-day average of new cases exceeded 4,000.

The county reached that threshold on Sunday, prompting the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to enact a prohibition of in-person dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars effective Wednesday at 10 p.m.

The change to the health order had been anticipated for several days as new COVID-19 cases in the county remained alarmingly high, while hospitalizations also increased. Restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars can continue to offer take-out, delivery and drive-through meals. The order restricting in-person dining is expected to last three weeks.

On Monday the county recorded the highest number of new cases ever at 6,124, however, about 1,500 of those were backlogged cases from the weekend.

 “Public Health reminds everyone to stay home as much as possible for the next two to three weeks to change the trajectory of surging cases and save lives. COVID-19 can be unintentionally spread to other people unless we all practice the simple safety precautions that prevent spread,” the county stated in a news release. 

Officials warned over the weekend that if the daily average of cases reaches 4,500, a three-week stay at home order will be announced. On Monday the county reached that threshold, but the health department held off on ordering people to stay home or closing more sectors of the economy.

Businesses, including the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, reacted immediately asking local elected officials to reverse the new health order. However, on Tuesday afternoon the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors reaffirmed the heath officers recommendation to close outdoor dining.

“These are not decisions that we have made lightly. We are acutely aware of the compromises all Angelenos have been forced to make in order to protect the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. Unfortunately, as we seek to balance the public health and economic health of our region, there is no win-win outcome. There are downsides to every decision,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.

He said the main priority is getting the county’s students back into school and believes the incremental reopening of the economy may have made it more difficult to leave the most restrictive tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

“If we are asking that everyone stay home and limit physical interactions with people outside of their homes, our policies align with this message. The public is being bombarded with confusing and incomplete information, much of which is contradictory. Allowing outdoor dining, where people of mixed households gather to dine and mingle without face masks is inconsistent with our request for people to stay home,” Mr. Ridley-Thomas said.

On Tuesday the Claremont Chamber of commerce issued a statement calling on all members to contact Supervisor Hilda Solis to support keeping the city’s restaurants open for outdoor dining.

“Our local member restaurants have taken great care and expense to remain compliant with health orders and create safe outdoor dining areas. With the decision to prohibit all dining options beyond take-out, these businesses will face further financial devastation with tomorrow’s order to suspend outdoor dining,” the chambers statement read.

The city of Claremont issued its own statement asking residents to take the necessary measures to slow the spread of the virus, including staying at home as much as possible and wearing a mask while maintaining physical distancing.

The city encourages residents to patronize local restaurants for take-out and delivery while at the same time stating that the intention is to ask the county for a variance from the order due to Claremont’s relatively low infection rate.

“The city is working with surrounding communities to request that the LA County Department of Public Health consider local COVID-19 case numbers in making determinations for restrictions, to potentially allow businesses in cities such as Claremont, with relatively low COVID-19 incidences to continue to operate,” the statement read.

Claremont has 659 cumulative cases, across all areas, an increase of 10.4 percent in one week. Sadly, one additional Claremont resident has died bringing total deaths to 11.

On Tuesday the county reported 3,692 new cases of COVID-19 and an astonishing 51 deaths, the highest count in months.

Among the deaths reported today, 18 people were over the age of 80, 19 were between the ages of 65 and 79, 12 were 50 to 64, and one person was between 30 and 49. Forty-one had underlying health conditions, including 15 people over the age of 80

Hospitalizations continue to accelerate at alarming speed with 1,575 people currently hospitalized, 26 percent of whom are in the ICU.  Just two weeks ago, there were 888 people with COVID-19 hospitalized. 

Since its first news release in March public health has recorded 374,134 cumulative cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and 7,497 deaths.

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