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California joins Texas and Florida in closing bars, but selectively

Meanwhile, Washington state is forgoing a lift in restaurant and bar capacities. All are reacting to a surge in coronavirus infections.
Photograph: Shutterstock

California joined Texas and Florida over the weekend in shutting down bars to slow the spread of coronavirus, but limited its directive to Los Angeles and six other counties that have failed to make progress in bringing down new infections for at least 14 days.

The state action follows the announcement of San Francisco Mayor London Breed that bars there will not be allowed to reopen today as specified under her plan for lifting restrictions on local businesses. Restaurants will remain limited to outdoor dining and were not scheduled to resume dine-in service under the reopening phase scheduled to begin today.

Similarly, the state of Washington has decided that counties ready to progress to the fourth and final phase of their reopening will be held back indefinitely because of surges in COVID-19 cases. Restaurants in those jurisdictions would essentially have been allowed to resume the use of their entire dining rooms. Their on-site dining capacities now remain capped at 75%, and bars are limited to 25% of their pre-pandemic seating for on-premise service.

New Jersey restaurants won't be afforded the opportunity to provide even that level of on-premise service.  Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday afternoon via Twitter that he's delaying the reopening of restaurant dining rooms there, which was slated to start this week. He said the experiences of other states in resuming dine-in service has convinced him to keep eating places limited to takeout and delivery. 

New York City may follow its neighbor. The city and the state of New York are considering a similar pause in the Big Apple's reopening plan, which calls for allowing restaurants to reopen 50% of their dining rooms on Monday. Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said they will decide by Wednesday if dine-in service can resume without accelerating contaminations.

The jurisdictions are the latest areas to roll back or delay their reopening plans because of sharp increases in coronavirus infections. In the instance of New York, infection rates have slowed to their lowest levels since March, but officials worry that visitors from out of state will ignite a resurgence.

The upswing in the contamination rate has been particularly steep in sunbelt states. On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott shut down bars throughout his state and re-lowered the cap on dine-in restaurant service to 50% of capacities. Hours later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis immediately closed the bars in his state after it a daily high in new cases of COVID-19, outstripping the prior record by about 68%.

California, Texas and Florida rank first, second and third, respectively, in the ranking of states by their restaurant populations.

California structured its reclosing order to bars so as to permit the places to add foodservice, either by adding meals of their own for sit-down service or contracting with an outside provider to supply the food. Essentially, the places are forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages that are not accompanied by food.  

Bars in four California counties have not yet been allowed to reopen for on-premise service.

The state’s Department of Public Health said the closing of bars in seven counties should address a surge in COVID-19 cases among young people. “Bars generally attract a younger adult population,” it wrote in explaining the reversal in the state’s reopening plan. “While younger adults without co-morbidities tend to have less severe symptoms and overall disease outcomes, increased cases, even in this cohort, will lead to increased hospitalizations and deaths.”

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