Los Angeles County health officials are set to enact new restrictions - such as a business curfew - in an effort to reverse a surge in infections they fear could overwhelm hospitals.
LOS ANGELES -- Amid a surge in coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County is set enact more restrictive health guidelines on Friday, including a business curfew that will require restaurants, wineries, breweries and other non-essential businesses to close at 10 p.m. daily, officials said.
Gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 15 people for three households. The county's previous guidance limited gatherings to three households but there was no limit on the number of attendees.
A 50% capacity limit will also be imposed on restaurants with outdoor service, while personal care businesses and offices will be required to limit their capacity to 25%.
According to the county's new guidelines, advance appointments will be mandatory at nail salons and other personal care establishments. Any services that require the customer to remove their face covering will not be allowed.
Restaurants, breweries, wineries, bars and all other non-essential retail establishments must close from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
On Sunday, the county Department of Public Health reported 3,061 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths, bringing the county's totals to 339,560 cases and 7,269 fatalities. On Saturday, the county reported 3,780 new cases, the highest number of positive cases in one day not associated with a backlog since mid-July.
The county reported 2,795 cases on Monday -- a day when case reports are traditional lower due to a lag in reporting of test results over the weekend. Long Beach health officials announced 130 more cases Monday, while Pasadena reported 16. The new cases lifted the cumulative county total to 342,489 since the start of the pandemic.
Another six coronavirus-related deaths were also reported by the county Monday, raising the death toll to 7,275.
The county has also seen a steady increase in hospitalizations. The number of L.A. County residents hospitalized with the virus surpassed 1,000 on Sunday for the first time in months, jumping from 966 on Saturday to 1,014, then up to 1,049 on Monday.
Although the rate of deaths from the virus has not risen sharply, that number is considered a lagging indicator,'' meaning it tends to increase several weeks after a spike in hospitalizations.
All other key metrics in the county are on the rise. Ferrer said the county's average daily rate of new cases per 100,000 residents was 13.7 on Monday, nearly double the 7.6 rate from a week ago. The county's seven-day average daily rate of positive virus tests was 5.3% on Monday, up from 3.8% just a week ago.
"It is clear that L.A. County is at a very dangerous point in the pandemic,'' Ferrer said.
Health officials have pointed squarely at gatherings of residents -- either in public or private settings -- for driving the recent surge, which has primarily involved younger residents under age 50.
Ferrer said residents between 18-29 have consistently accounted for a larger proportion of new cases over the last two month, dramatically widening the gap over all other age groups. But while younger people are becoming infected more often, it is older residents suffering the consequences in terms of hospitalizations, she said, meaning young people are becoming infected and passing the virus to older residents who are at higher risk of severe illness.
"This is most unfortunate and it serves as a stark reminder that young people are spreading the virus with disastrous results for our elderly,'' Ferrer said.
In an interview with KNX Newsradio on Monday, Supervisor Janice Hahn discussed the possibility of a business curfew.
"The fact of the matter is, this is a dire warning to all of us. It's an alarm that the cases have spiked so dramatically,'' Hahn told KNX Newsradio Monday. "The suggestion is that we ask our businesses, our restaurants, to close maybe by 10 p.m. so that they don't essentially become bars where people are just sitting around drinking, laughing and talking without their masks on. So it's not a general public curfew for everybody.''
Los Angeles County is already mired in the most restrictive purple tier of California's four-tier coronavirus monitoring system, placing severe limits on businesses and public gatherings. Based on the surge in cases in recent weeks, the county will be staying in that purple tier indefinitely.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that 40 counties statewide were being moved back to the purple tier in response to a dramatic increase in case numbers. The move means 41 of the state's 58 counties are under the tightest restrictions, up from 13 on Sunday.
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