California restaurants may soon start eating al fresco again. The epidemiologist wonders if it’s safe


Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday rescinded the statewide stay-at-home order he put in place last month due to the increase in COVID-19 cases. He said at a press conference: “Effective immediately, all parts of the state of California … are no longer in order to stay home and will return … a plan for a more secure economy.”

Newsom says he has looked at projections that ICU capacity will soon exceed 15% in some parts of the state. California is now reverting to the tiered system, which allows counties to open businesses based on the number of cases and positivity rates. The governor’s decision also paves the way for restaurants to open alfresco dining and lounges to offer limited indoor services.

In LA, restaurants will be allowed to start eating al fresco as of Friday, while lounges and other personal care services will be able to reopen immediately.

The move was greeted with praise from the business community, but skepticism from some epidemiologists, especially as new variant strains are circulating in California.

“We are at a very critical time here. We are reaping some of the fruits of our hard work. But I think if we start to relax our restrictions, we could very easily tip overboard in a short period of time, ”says Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at UCLA.

Should the Governor and County of LA have waited a few more weeks?

“Everyone is eager to move forward and try to balance what they’re trying to do here. Of course, as an epidemiologist focused on public health aspects… I of course preferred to see maybe a little more time to really gain ground here, especially with these new variants starting to emerge. … The message to people is, again, that just because you can do things doesn’t mean you should.

Rimoin says that if people are going to be in public they should wear a high quality mask, and if they don’t have a KN95 mask or a mask with excellent filtration, they should wear double masks.

She adds, “Do your best to stay as far away from others as possible, avoid the crowds. … One of the things that drove much of this outbreak was [sic] when people start to see each other in their homes… you start to let your guard down, to take your mask off.

She says that with the new variants, people have to be more careful. “All the loopholes in our armor are going to be exploited. So really doubling all of that effort, it’s going to be important. “

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