LOS ANGELES, CA — Los Angeles County restaurants have struggled to implement mandated protocols to protect customers and workers from the spread of the coronavirus, health officials said Monday. Roughly half of the 2,000 restaurants visited by health workers failed to meet requirements, announced the county’s public health director.

The county also announced 1,100 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 73,79 19 cases. At the same time, the county confirmed another 19 deaths, bringing Los Angeles County closer to the morbid milestone of 3,000 lives lost to the disease.

Still, county officials said they are committed to the reopening of Los Angeles businesses despite the stumbles and the rising case and fatality numbers. Though Los Angeles remains the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, the county is moving much faster than regions such as the Bay Area to reopen.

The county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said officials will continue to work with businesses to help them comply with health protocols. Notably, newly reopened dine-in restaurants are struggling with protocols such as social distancing and limited capacity.
Inspectors visited 2,000 restaurants over the last weekend alone.

“They’ll be revisiting all of the restaurants that were not in compliance and issuing them an order to come into compliance,” Ferrer said. “We’ve been doing a lot of education, but starting this week we’re actually going to revisit places where we noted that people still had concerns, they had confusion, they hadn’t quite made the changes. There should be no places where tables are right next to each other. They either need a six-foot (separation) or a physical barrier. Those are requirements in the protocols.

“… We’re really working hard with our restaurants,” she said. “I want to note that 50% of the restaurants we visited were in complete compliance, which is way up from where we were the first weekend. So I want to thank all those restaurants that are in fact doing their very best to adhere to the protocols and put in place those measures that offer safety.”

Business owners and workers aren’t the only ones who should be mindful of social distancing protocols. County officials have continued to stress the need for residents to continue practicing social-distancing and wearing face coverings when mixing the public. They have warned that reopening more businesses is not a sign that the coronavirus pandemic has receded or disappeared, but reopening the economy is essential.

“We’re trying to balance public health with getting people back to work,” County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said. “Because we know it’s not an either-or,' it's got to be anand.’ We want to be driven by industry, recognizing that Dr. Ferrer and her team will help us ensure that people are doing the social distancing and everything is in place at each business to ensure that people are protected.

“So it’s a constant balancing act, for sure, and there’s no perfect science,” she said. “But I know in L.A. County we want it to be both industry and public health driving that narrative moving forward, and we’ve done it in a very slow, deliberative fashion to make sure that we are, again, balancing the public health needs with getting people back to work.”

The county has formed a task force of leaders from major industries, and that panel has helped develop reopening guidelines for those sectors. That task force is scheduled to meet again Tuesday.

In reporting the latest case figures, Ferrer said one more homeless person has died from COVID-19 in the county, raising the total to 16. A total of 16,554 cases — 22% of the overall county total — have occurred in institutional settings, most notably skilled nursing facilities. There have been 1,541 deaths in such institutions, 89% of them in nursing homes.

Ferrer also gave an update on coronavirus cases among health care workers and first responders, reporting a total of 6,561 such cases, up 530 from last week. A total of 44 L.A. County health care workers have died from the virus, an increase of five since last week. Of those 44 workers, 32 worked in skilled nursing facilities or assisted living centers.

She said the county has seen 329 reported cases of coronavirus among pregnant women, and of 48 infants tested at birth, none had the virus. Ferrer said new mothers who tested positive for the virus should be able to breastfeed their infants.