Indoor dining at restaurants has been suspended for another three weeks due to growing concern over COVID-19 cases. Courtesy image.

Los Angeles County is bracing for a make or break weekend in fighting the coronavirus outbreak with local officials backing state measures to temporarily roll back reopening of some businesses in advance of the July 4 holiday.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new round of closures Wednesday and his announcement followed a previous decision to close beaches this weekend.

All beaches, beach parking lots, beach bike paths, beach facilities and beach accessways will be closed from 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 3, until 5 a.m. Monday, July 6. Local beaches will be completely closed to all recreational activities, the Santa Monica Pier will be closed, and Santa Monica’s portion of the beach bike path and all beach parking lots will also be closed.

“With a sharp rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases, public health authorities are encouraging residents across LA County to stay at home as much as possible during the Fourth of July holiday weekend,” said Interim City Manager and Director of Emergency Services Lane Dilg. “Avoid confined space, crowds, and contact with others not in your household, and continue to wear a face covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As hard as it can be to stay at home, it is as important as ever in this pandemic as we work together to save lives and protect the progress we’ve made.”

Newsom’s Wednesday order closed indoor dining in restaurants, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos, museums and cardooms. Bars in Los Angeles County were previously ordered closed. The new order requires masks at all times in gyms.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the county is at a critical juncture in the pandemic and there is evidence that it is social gatherings that are causing cases to spike.

“L.A. County data also gives us ample evidence that there are many outbreaks that have happened over the last three weeks that are linked to parties, and gatherings, or families and friends tired of being in their households decided to socialize and celebrate,” she said. “Unfortunately, many of these celebrations resulted in the spread of COVID-19.”

She said everyone needs to be aware of the risks that come with a holiday celebration and that the primary emphasis for everyone should be to minimize the occasions where they are present with others and the virus can spread.

“These are the steps that are going to help us get back on track,” she said of the new closures. “And I know that it’s frustrating. And really it’s heartbreaking to think that we may be taking steps backwards. But I really have confidence that with the immediate actions that we’re going to be required to do today, we have a chance to really, actually prevent as many future cases, hospitalizations and deaths as is possible during this pandemic. So as we get into the weekend, I ask that you avoid the three C’s. Avoid crowds. Avoid confined spaces and avoid close contact with people who are outside of your house.”

Ferrer said there were an additional 2,002 cases Wednesday and 35 deaths. She said the numbers were slightly lower due to a lack of reporting by one lab but that Wednesday marked the fourth consecutive day with more than 2,000 new cases.

The total number of people that have tested positive for COVID-19 in LA County is 105,507 total cases. She said there are currently 1,889 people with cases of COVID-19 hospitalized.

Christina Ghaly, County Health Services Director, said an increasing rate of hospitalization was worrying, but not yet cause for panic.

“In the present and very near future, our hospitals do not yet need to surge,” she said. “They have open hospital beds, including medical surgical beds, telemetry beds and intensive care unit beds. In all the hospitals across Los Angeles County, they have the ability to care for an increasing number of patients, both with COVID-19, as well as individuals without COVID-19. There are sufficient beds and sufficient staff.”

However she said the increasing rate of infection was a bad sign with estimates predicting one in every 140 Angeleno’s could be infectious.

“That is a very much change for the worse and should be cause for concern, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of taking those proactive health measures, the public health measures, that we talked so much about seriously,” she said. “In the course of daily life it is very, very likely that you will encounter another individual who is infectious and is not isolated.”

Officials reiterated that wearing a mask is an important part of the ongoing effort.

“This holiday weekend in particular, only gather with members of your household,” said Ferrer. “Wear a cloth face covering whenever you’re out and around others, keep a distance of at least six feet from others. Wash your hands often and isolate or whatever you’re asked to do.”

editor@smdp.com