California will close restaurant dining rooms for a third time, starting Tuesday, in nearly three-fourths of its counties, a move Gov. Gavin Newsom described as “pulling the emergency brake” on a runaway increase of coronavirus infections in the nation’s largest restaurant market.
The moves will force restaurants in 41 of the state’s 58 counties to rely solely on outdoor dining, takeout and delivery until their case numbers drop below the thresholds set by the state when it shifted to a new county-focused system for tracking the spread of COVID-19. The affected areas are home to 94% of the state’s population.
Under the new monitoring system, the state had been acting on changes in infection rates every Tuesday. Because of the surge, the state will now monitor infection rates on a near-constant basis, with closures announced as soon as metrics exceed the state-set thresholds for a week. Previously, areas had two weeks to bring down their infection rates before limitations would be re-imposed on restaurants and other businesses.
California’s move follows a decision by five other states and a number of state and county jurisdictions to discontinue dine-in restaurant and bar service in the wake of virtually a nationwide COVID-19 surge. For most of those areas, the shutdowns mark the second suspension of dining room seating. California barred dining-room service initially in March, and then re-closed them on July 13 after new infections spiked. The state has been gradually lifting capacity restrictions on restaurants for the four months since then.
The areas prohibiting dine-in service include San Diego and Los Angeles Counties. San Francisco and neighboring Marin County opted to halt indoor seating last week because of the rise in new COVID cases.