Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all bars and nightlife to close in seven counties, including Los Angeles County, and recommended that eight other counties close their nightlife as well on Sunday due to the rising spread of coronavirus.
The eight other counties included Ventura, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Newsom tweeted the message Sunday afternoon.
"Californians must remain vigilant against this virus," he added in a statement issued later. "COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger. 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. Each of us has the power to limit the spread of this virus. Wear a face covering and keep physically distant outside the home. Don't gather in groups, and if you are older or have a condition that puts you at higher risk of COVID-19, protect yourself by staying home."
On June 5, the state posted guidance allowing for the opening of bars as of June 12, if their opening could be allowed by local public health officials. The counties ordered to close bars had been on the state's County Monitoring List for 14 days or more, while the counties that were only being advised to close them were on the list for three or more consecutive days, but less than 14 days.
"We are actively monitoring COVID-19 across the state and working closely with counties where there are increased rates and concerning patterns of transmission," said Dr. Sonia Angell, the state's public health director. "Closing bars in these counties is one of a number of targeted actions counties are implementing across our state to slow the virus' spread and reduce risk."
The California Department of Public Health guidance says that "brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs, should close until those establishments are allowed to resume operation per state guidance and local permission, unless they are offering sit-down, dine-in meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal."
The state's news release says that "bars are social environments where groups of people mix. In these environments alcohol consumption reduces inhibition and impairs judgment, leading to reduced compliance with recommended core personal protective measures, such as the mandatory use of face coverings and the practice of social and physical distancing. Bars are generally louder environments requiring raised voices leading to the greater projection of droplets. These factors present a higher likelihood of transmission of COVID-19 within groups, between groups, and among the workforce."
"Public health professionals within California and throughout the nation have identified bars as the highest risk sector of non-essential business currently open. Beyond the higher risk of transmission in bar settings, contract tracing, a key measure needed to control spread, is also more challenging in bars because of the constant mixing among patrons and a lack of record-keeping of those in attendance."
Local law enforcement agencies said they were just learning of the order along with everyone else.
"We just got the notice. But as of right now, we have not been given any guidance, which way. It's breaking news," Officer Rosario Cervantes of the
Los Angeles Police Department's Media Relations Section told City News Service.
"We probably won't know of anything until Monday,'' said Deputy Tina Schrader of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Information Bureau. "We are the last to know."
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.
Those numbers brought the county's totals to 95,371 cases and 3,285 fatalities.
According the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, the seven-day average of daily new cases is more than 1,900, an increase from the 1,379 average two weeks ago. There are 1,698 people currently hospitalized, which is higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen in recent weeks.
And, with test results now available for more than one million individuals, 9% are testing positive. The cumulative positivity rate has increased from 8% to 9%, and the seven-day average of the daily positivity rate has increased from 5.8% two weeks ago to 8.6%.
Some officials have attributed the rise in overall cases to increases in testing, but Barbara Ferrer, the county's director of public health, said repeatedly in recent days that the metrics clearly demonstrate an increase in community spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Health officials said Friday the rise in cases hitting the county's younger population particularly hard -- likely reflecting reopenings of bars and restaurants and participation in this month's mass demonstrations against police brutality.
City News Service contributed to this report.