Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she will oppose the county health order during a Board of Supervisors meeting scheduled for Tuesday, citing estimates by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation that approximately 700,000 food industry jobs could be lost, with 75% of those losses affecting workers earning $50,000 or less.
“These proposed measures by the Department of Public Health will further devastate local businesses and employees who have been asked to shoulder an unfair burden this year,” Barger said in a statement.
Barger said only 10-15% of positive COVID-19 cases are related to dining out with someone who tested positive, while more than half are connected to private social gatherings. Closing outdoor dining — where compliance with health orders is high — could also create the unintended consequence of prompting more private gatherings, she said.
“Businesses have made incredible sacrifices to align with safety protocols to remain open in order to pay their bills and feed their families,” Barger said. “Increased case counts are not coming from businesses reopening, but from large gatherings where people aren’t wearing masks. We aren’t helpless in slowing the spread of COVID-19 and can protect ourselves and our neighbors by maintaining physical distancing and wearing face coverings.”
Barger’s staff said she planned to address the matter during the board’s discussion Tuesday on public health orders. It was not immediately clear whether she would have support among her colleagues if she chose to bring a motion to revise the health order.
One other board member, Janice Hahn, expressed concern about the in-person dining ban Sunday night.
“While I know our case counts are growing rapidly, I would have rather discussed this measure openly during our Board of Supervisors meeting so that the public could understand the rationale behind it,” Hahn wrote on her Twitter page. “Some of these restaurants are barely hanging on. I hope this isn’t the last nail in their coffins. I wish we could have figured out a way to put in more restrictions rather than completely shutting down dining.”
But Supervisor Sheila Kuehl told City News Service the board was in full agreement last Tuesday about the ban following a presentation by county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
“All five of us agreed,” Kuehl said. “So I was surprised to hear that Kathryn had taken it upon herself to individually express opposition. I don’t see any support for that position anywhere and certainly, I don’t support it.
“Outdoor dining is probably more dangerous in terms of contagion than any other kind of business,” Kuehl said. “People sit for hours with no masks on” and while they may be distant from other tables, they are in close proximity to servers and patrons walking by.
“I was just told that the cases today are over 6,000 — 6,000. We have never, never been that high,” Kuehl added. “So I support this move (to ban outdoor dining) even more.”
Both Kuehl and Barger said that the authority to issue public health orders lies with the public health department. In October, the board of supervisors did take steps to issue its own order allowing breweries and wineries serving food to reopen, effectively overruling Ferrer’s recommendations. Such an order by the board, however, does not require enforcement by public health employees, according to Kuehl.