California shuts restaurant dining rooms in 19 counties, MI closes bars


Gov. Gavin Newsom's announcement today to apply a three-week "dimmer switch" closing bars and state park parking lots, dine-in restaurant services, fitness centers and movie theaters in Santa Clara and 18 other counties to battle COVID-19 may have turned the lights out on a pending county plan to open up all businesses and public spaces on a limited basis.

That order is a reversal of Newsom's May 29 announcement that restaurants could offer in-door dining again so long as they followed rules meant to reduce the likelihood of transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

California was the first state to issue a stay-at-home directive to consumers and among the first to limit restaurants to takeout and delivery.

"We have a responsibility, I think, at the same time to go after the people who are thumbing their nose, that are particularly, being aggressive, reticent to do anything to not only protect you as a customer... but aren't even protecting their workers", Newsom said. "We're seeing parts of the state where we are seeing an increase not only in the total number of positive cases but a significant increase in the total number of people that are getting tested that are testing positive, meaning the positivity rate, not just the total case rate, is beginning to go up to a degree that obviously generates some concern".

While Newsom did not set enforcements on the general public, he did announce the development of "Enforcement Strike Teams" to monitor business compliance with health and safety regulations. Wear a mask. Physically distance.

"I'm not coming out with a fist", he said. "We want not come out with an open heart, recognizing the magnitude of some of these modifications", Newsom said.

Restaurants, however, are not covered by the order yet but owners have been told to shift their operations to an outdoor setting. Newsom said the state is working with tribal nations that operate casinos to determine guidelines that could allow them to continue operating.

On Sunday, state health officials mandated the closure of bars in seven counties - including Los Angeles and San Joaquin - and recommended closures in eight others.

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As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, the indoor facilities must close in 19 "watch list" counties that are home to 72% of the state's population. The impacted counties are those seeing the most serious uptick in infections, and include nearly all of Southern California, though not San Diego, which is faring better.

There are now 19 of the state's 58 counties on the monitoring list.

Ahead of the weekend, Newsom has also closed state beaches in Los Angeles and Ventura counties to mirror local public health orders.

Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the county is at a critical juncture in the pandemic and there is evidence that it is social gatherings that are causing cases to spike.

Newsom noted that counties with mandatory closures should consider cancelling firework shows if they haven't done so already.

A number of local businesses in these categories had only recently reopened following a loosening of the state's original shutdown order issued in March.

Newsom rolled back some of the reopening taking place in California and imposed tougher restrictions on certain activities in 19 counties.