As daily COVID-19 case rates reach record highs, L.A. County issued new health orders closing playgrounds, limiting business capacities and banning all gatherings between households, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 20.
Essential businesses are limited to 35 percent capacity, non-essential businesses are limited to 20 percent capacity, and outdoor fitness centers are limited to 50 percent. The Santa Monica Farmer’s Market will also reduce customer capacity by 50 percent.
All Santa Monica playground equipment will be closed for three weeks. Other public facilities will close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in accordance with the County’s curfew.
“One of the issues that we’ve heard from some of the parks departments that are running the playgrounds is that they have been extraordinarily crowded,” said County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, in a Nov. 30 press briefing. “Many times children are seen at the playground without wearing their face coverings interacting with people who aren’t in their households.”
Muscle Beach will remain open for now while the City awaits guidance on outdoor gym equipment from the County Department of Public Health, according to City Chief Communications Officer Debbie Lee.
The temporary order strives to reign in the current spike in cases, which is greater than any previous surge. On Monday Nov. 30, the County reported 5,150 new cases, while during the summer spike the highest number of daily cases was 2,950.
In Santa Monica, more than 500 new cases were reported in the last month, accounting for over a third of all cases recorded in the City since the pandemic began.
“We understand these additional closures and emergency orders impact every corner of our community, especially heading into the December holidays,” said Santa Monica Chief Resilience Officer, Lindsay Call. “As we await a vaccine, our collaborative actions can help curb the deadly impact of COVID-19 on our community. We need every Santa Monican to follow L.A. County health guidelines and stay at home as much as possible, to wear a face covering, and not gather with those outside of their household.”
Between Oct. 30 and Nov. 30 test positivity rates in L.A. County jumped from 3.7 percent to 9.4 percent. Average daily case rates increased by 91 percent between Nov. 8 and Nov. 21, and average daily hospitalizations increased 93 percent between Nov. 13 and Nov. 26.
“As hospitalizations increase sharply, we worry not only about the people who are suffering, but also about how the increasing numbers could potentially overwhelm the healthcare system,” said Ferrer.
The temporary orders aim to reduce transmission and relieve the burden on hospitals down the line. The goals of new restrictions are to reduce crowding at sites where non household members mingle, ensure individuals remain at home as much as possible, and ensure masks are worn for activities that involve contact with non household members.