California’s COVID Increases, Governor Newsom Orders Counties to Close Bars

In the Bay Area, it won’t have much of an impact: the bars in Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties were already closed, and will likely stay that way for a while.

But Governor Gavin Newsom’s Sunday order to close bars in seven counties and recommend closings in eight others added to an unequivocal message: California, with more than 200,000 confirmed cases and an increase in new cases in recent days, is far from end the new coronavirus.

The governor had already mandated the use of masks statewide in public and high-risk areas as case numbers increased. On Friday, with a high positivity rate limiting hospitals’ ability to respond in Imperial County, Newsom urged local health officials to reinstate their order to stay home.

Sunday’s escalation provided the state’s most urgent call so far, a warning that scenes of bars and nightclubs filled with youths belied the strength of the virus and its danger to public health.

“We are actively monitoring COVID-19 statewide and working closely with counties where rates are highest and with regard to transmission patterns,” said state public health officer Dr. Sonia Angell. “Closing the bars in these counties is one of a series of specific actions counties are taking across our state to slow the spread of the virus and reduce risk.”

Bars were ordered closed in Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, San Joaquin and Tulare counties because they have been on the COVID-19 watch list for two weeks. Counties on the recommended list, including Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Stanislaus, and Ventura, have been on the watch list for at least three days.

Los Angeles County public health officials said Sunday that a county health official’s order would be amended to “require that all bars, breweries, breweries, pubs, wineries and tasting rooms be closed unless they offer meals for dinner. This includes closing bar areas in restaurants, ”the department said in a statement.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday that he supported the governor’s actions.

“As we began to reopen more businesses, we realized that we may need to change course to protect public health from this deadly virus,” Garcetti wrote on Twitter. “I support @ CAGovernor’s order to close bars in Los Angeles County and other counties to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

The “recommended” closings are not mandatory by the state, so local health departments will be able to decide next steps, a Newsom spokesperson said by email.

“The actions being taken are essential to our mission to quickly contain this virus and improve public health,” said the email. “We can only stop the spread if everyone does their part.”

Messages sent Sunday to bar owners and health officials in Contra Costa County were not immediately returned. But the county was already reconsidering its reopening plans. On Friday, it became one of the three counties in the Bay Area to publicly voice concerns about the increase in the number of cases.

In a statement, Contra Costa County health officials revealed that the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals had increased by 42 percent. Data released by the county showed that coronavirus cases were growing among the crowd of those under 40, which accounted for 38 percent of cases in April. In June, that number shot up to 55 percent of cases.

“It is a sign that younger people are playing an important role in driving the increase in new cases and potentially infecting vulnerable people,” the statement said.