Outdoor seating removed in Manhattan Beach in response to rise in COVID-19 cases

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- As the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise across Los Angeles County, Manhattan Beach took steps over the weekend to close outdoor seating spaces on public property.

The change, which requires tables and chairs in the outdoor seating spaces to be removed, took effect at 10 p.m. Sunday. City officials said the move is in response to a recent spike in cases in the city.

At the beginning of the current surge on Nov. 1, Manhattan Beach had 425 confirmed cases of COVID-19. As of Saturday, that number nearly doubled to 821 cases. On Dec. 31, the daily number of new cases reached 21, and on New Year's Day, it hit 26, an all-time high. Remaining ICU capacity in Southern California is at 0%.

"This recent spike in the virus is significant despite the good news last month of our Manhattan Beach firefighters receiving some of the first COVID-19 vaccinations," said Manhattan Bean Mayor Suzanne Hadley. "Although public seating areas will be closed temporarily, please continue supporting our local businesses that offer pick-up, curbside, take-out and delivery services."

The city had previously declared those areas public space, which allowed people to eat takeout there. That essentially sidestepped the state and L.A. County orders that shut down outdoor dining across the region.

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Manhattan Beach has found somewhat of a loophole to keep outdoor dining alive. The city deemed restaurant patio areas as "public seating." But there are some rules.

The public spaces had been extremely popular under those restrictions in other parts of the county. Waiters were not allowed to seat customers, who had been allowed to order takeout and use the tables and chairs to eat.

"They're only doing that because they're looking out for our safety, nothing more than that. But I do think that the restaurants all need help because it's really sad for the restaurant owners," said John Coulter. "So I hope the government really helps out, very soon, before more restaurants have to close."

With a new mutant strain of COVID-19 now active in California -- reportedly much more easily spread than the original virus -- people must continue striving to reduce virus transmission, wearing face coverings, maintaining a safe distance, staying home as much as possible and supporting local businesses, Manhattan Beach officials said.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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