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Los Angeles residents flock to restaurants as outdoor dining reopens after two-month closure

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Los Angeles residents are flocking to restaurants for the first time in two months as outdoor dining has reopened with tables set eight feet apart. 

Hard-hit restaurant owners started welcoming diners back Friday after California state officials lifted the regional stay-at-home order this week and LA County officials said restaurants, wineries and breweries could resume outdoor dining.  

In November, officials banned all outdoor dining limiting eateries to takeout and delivery services only as cases, hospitalizations and deaths soared to record levels and hospitals ran out of ICU beds. 

Rates are now on decline but LA is still battling one of the worst outbreaks nationwide with health officials warning residents to remain vigilant or ‘we’ll be in the horrible position of needing to once again backtrack’. 

Los Angeles residents are flocking to restaurants for the first time in two months as outdoor dining has reopened with tables set eight feet apart and all TV viewing banned

LA residents emerged from the lockdown to enjoy a meal and drinks out with other members of their households Friday

LA residents emerged from the lockdown to enjoy a meal and drinks out with other members of their households Friday

Hard-hit restaurant owners started welcoming diners back Friday after California state officials lifted the regional stay-at-home order this week and LA County officials said restaurants, wineries and breweries could resume outdoor dining

Hard-hit restaurant owners started welcoming diners back Friday after California state officials lifted the regional stay-at-home order this week and LA County officials said restaurants, wineries and breweries could resume outdoor dining

LA residents emerged from the lockdown Friday to enjoy a meal and drinks out with other members of their households on the patio areas of local restaurants. 

Under new reopening rules, outdoor dining tables must be spaced eight feet apart – up from the previous requirement of six feet.

No more than six people can dine together at a table and they must all be from the same household. 

Another – unusual – rule is that all televisions or other screens must stay switched off until further notice. 

‘Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off,’ the order from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health says. 

‘This provision is effective until further notice.’ 

The county’s revised Health Officer Order also reinstates previous restrictions on outdoor dining, including that restaurant workers must wear a face mask and shield when dealing with customers and that capacity is limited to 50 percent.  

A waitress walks by as CEO and founder of The Abbey Food & Bar David Cooley shares a drink with friends at The Abbey outdoor seating area in West Hollywood

A waitress walks by as CEO and founder of The Abbey Food & Bar David Cooley shares a drink with friends at The Abbey outdoor seating area in West Hollywood 

A waitress wears a face mask and shield in line with the reopening rules as she talks to customers at the outdoor seating area of The Abbey Food & Bar

A waitress wears a face mask and shield in line with the reopening rules as she talks to customers at the outdoor seating area of The Abbey Food & Bar

Under new reopening rules, outdoor dining tables must be spaced eight feet apart - up from the previous requirement of six feet

Under new reopening rules, outdoor dining tables must be spaced eight feet apart – up from the previous requirement of six feet

A notice inviting patrons to social distance is seen in the outdoor seating area of The Abbey Food & Bar

A notice inviting patrons to social distance is seen in the outdoor seating area of The Abbey Food & Bar

No more than six people can dine together at a table and they must all be from the same household

No more than six people can dine together at a table and they must all be from the same household

It also encourages seating to be arranged by advance reservation and to collect contact information where possible to help with contact tracing in the event of an outbreak.

Indoor dining continues to be banned across the county.

The new rule on television screenings is thought to be a move to prevent people gathering in restaurants to watch the Super Bowl next Sunday. 

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer voiced concerns of potential large gathers of sports fans on February 7 when the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  

‘We really do need to be cautious as we move forward, given we have a major sporting event. We’ve seen lots of people together shouting, yelling, screaming during the excitement of a game,’ she said. 

‘This should be a virtual get-together, just like many of you celebrated the holidays with just your immediate family present.’  

Glasspar Chef/owner Rob Wilson (center) celebrates California Gov. Gavin Newsom's lift of the stay-at-home order on Monday

Glasspar Chef/owner Rob Wilson (center) celebrates California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s lift of the stay-at-home order on Monday

This week restaurant owners prepared their patio areas to welcome back diners after two months of takeout and delivery service only

This week restaurant owners prepared their patio areas to welcome back diners after two months of takeout and delivery service only

Shop owners remove the covers from chairs and tables for customers to sit and lounge outside at the Commons in Calabasas

Shop owners remove the covers from chairs and tables for customers to sit and lounge outside at the Commons in Calabasas

Ferrer pointed to previous large gatherings to watch the Dodgers in the World Series and the Lakers in the NBA Finals last October. 

Outdoor dining closed on November 25 resigning struggling restaurants to takeout and delivery only for the first time since May. 

The ban was part of a statewide lockdown issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom ordering outdoor dining – among other things – to close when a region’s ICU capacity fell below 15 percent. 

The decision sparked lawsuits from the California Restaurant Association and local restaurants who tried to block the ban, saying outdoor dining was a much-needed lifeline to the industry amid the pandemic. 

In December LA County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant sided with the claimants saying public health officials had to present data to show why restaurants must cease on-site dining. 

The ruling was overturned in appellate court.   

The owner of LA restaurant Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill in Sherman Oaks then sued Newsom in federal court saying the ban was ‘unconstitutional’ and not supported by science.  

Newsom announced Monday he was lifting the state lockdown saying California is experiencing a 'flattening of the curve'

Newsom announced Monday he was lifting the state lockdown saying California is experiencing a ‘flattening of the curve’

In total, LA County has recorded 1.1 million cases and 16,332 deaths since the pandemic began

 In total, LA County has recorded 1.1 million cases and 16,332 deaths since the pandemic began

A total of 5,855 people were hospitalized across the county Friday - markedly down from the peak of 8,098 people hospitalized on January 5

A total of 5,855 people were hospitalized across the county Friday – markedly down from the peak of 8,098 people hospitalized on January 5

The restaurant industry has been one of the hardest hit amid the pandemic, with 2.5 million jobs lost and 110,000 establishments closed either temporarily or for good, according to the National Restaurant Association.   

The reopening came the same day 7,112 new cases and 228 deaths were recorded in LA County Friday. 

A total of 5,855 people were hospitalized across the county.

The seven-day daily average testing positivity rate now stands at 12 percent.  

While the figures are still high, this is markedly down from the peak of 8,098 people hospitalized on January 5. 

At that time, hospitals were overflowing with some recording no available ICU beds and health officials told emergency workers to start only bringing in patients with a strong chance of survival because there was no room.  

In total, LA County has recorded 1.1 million cases and 16,332 deaths since the pandemic began.  

Newsom announced Monday he was lifting the state lockdown saying California is experiencing a ‘flattening of the curve.’ 

‘Everything that should be up is up, everything that should be down is down – case rates, positivity rates, hospitalizations, ICUs,’ he said.

Despite the optimism, the state passed the grim milestone of 40,000 deaths, as the tally by Johns Hopkins University counted 40,240 deaths Saturday morning.  

It took six months for California to record its first 10,000 deaths, then four months to double to 20,000. In just five weeks, the state reached 30,000 and just 20 days to get to 40,000. 

The latest state figures Friday put the total at 39,578 deaths and 3.2 million cases, while 16,581 people are hospitalized. 

Almost 3.1 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered statewide, with 6.1 percent of the population having received one dose and 1.2 percent the second, Bloomberg data shows. 

But the rollout has been slow with just 54.6 percent of the state’s supply from the federal government having gone into the arms of Californians.

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