LA County could reissue safer-at-home order, restrict restaurants to takeout-only if surge in COVID cases continues, officials say

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The day after a business curfew and other new orders were announced, Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday said even tighter restrictions could be imposed if the surge in COVID-19 cases rises beyond specific thresholds.

Speaking at a virtual news conference, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said a safer-at-home order could again be issued if the five-day average of COVID-19 cases exceeds 4,500 or if hospitalizations exceed 2,000 per day. That order would remain in effect for at least three weeks.

A countywide curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m begins, with an exemption for essential and emergency workers. Restaurants will still be able to serve customers through takeout and delivery.

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L.A. County health officials are set to enact new restrictions - such as a business curfew - in an effort to reverse a COVID-19 surge.

"We face one of the most dangerous moments in this pandemic,'' Ferrer said. "And the only effective path forward requires immediate action, and unfortunately, additional sacrifice. When the rate of increase is as high as it is right now, it can be harder to slow the spread. Heading into colder months and the flu season compounds the sense of urgency.''

If the case count and hospitalization criteria is reached, on-site dining would again be prohibited at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars if the five-day average of cases rises to more than 4,000 or if hospitalizations exceed 1,750 per day, Ferrer said. Such non-essential establishments would be limited to pickup and delivery only.

As of Tuesday, the five-day case average was 2,884. But on Wednesday, the county announced 3,944 new cases, mirroring numbers not seen since a mid-summer surge that followed the Fourth of July holiday. Long Beach health officials reported 160 new cases Wednesday, while Pasadena announced another 40. The new cases increased the cumulative county total since the start of the pandemic to 348,536.

Less than an hour after Ferrer delivered her remarks, Johns Hopkins University's ongoing count of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. surpassed 250,000. The country was approaching 11.5 million total confirmed cases.

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Los Angels County health officials said even tighter restrictions could be imposed if the surge in COVID-19 cases rises beyond specific thresholds.

On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom said he was pulling the "emergency brake" on reopening the state's economy as coronavirus cases surge at the fastest rate since the start of the outbreak.

"We are sounding the alarm," Newsom said. "California is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet - faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer. The spread of COVID-19, if left unchecked, could quickly overwhelm our health care system and lead to catastrophic outcomes."

Newsom's so-called emergency brake will halt reopening plans and put almost all of the state back under the strictest set of rules that halt indoor worship and force most indoor business to close or operate at a fraction of their capacity and keep most schools closed, including the nation's second-largest school district in Los Angeles.

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In 11 of those counties, the state is using what it calls an "emergency brake" dropping the counties two tiers, for example from Orange to the most restrictive, Purple.

Meanwhile, starting Friday, Pasadena will be enforcing new restrictions of its own to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Personal care services won't be allowed to operate if they require face coverings to be removed, such as facials and shaves. Personal care services are now being limited to 25% capacity.

Restaurants, breweries, and bars must also close from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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