A California judge said LA officials “arbitrarily” imposed an outdoor eating ban

The CEO of a California restaurant makes outdoor meetings.

On Tuesday, December 1, 2020, File Image, CEO Damien Williams will hold outdoor meetings at Settebello Pizzeria Napoletana in Pasadena, California. Marcio Jose Sanchez, File / AP

SACRAMENTO – A judge on Tuesday reprimanded Los Angeles County public health officials who competed to control the spread of Covid-19, preventing an indefinite ban on outdoor meals announced late last month.

“By failing to weigh the benefits of restricting outdoor dining at its cost, the county acted arbitrarily and has no reasonable connection to the legitimate aim in its decision,” a Los Angeles Supreme Court judge in a preliminary ruling on Tuesday wrote James C. Chalfant. a legal challenge from the California Restaurant Association.

A preliminary decision to block an indefinite ban will have no direct practical consequences for restaurants in Los Angeles, as the county is currently under a temporary home order tied to the region’s rapidly declining ICU capacity. But it is a symbolic and legitimate victory for those struggling with emergency powers bent by state and local officials, and a rare failure for public health authorities facing a growing crisis.

Barbara Ferrer, LA County Director of Public Health, who was mentioned in the lawsuit, declined to comment on the case when asked at a briefing on Monday. A Los Angeles County spokesman said in a statement Tuesday that “Los Angeles County is committed to protecting the health and safety of its residents from a deadly virus that has claimed the lives of nearly 8,000 of our friends, families and neighbors and has fallen ill. More than 450,000 people in LA County alone. . “

The country’s most populous county, with more than 10 million residents, reported 8,547 new cases on Tuesday alone. Its five-day average has risen to nearly 9,000, almost double the five-day average post-Thanksgiving daily that triggered local order. The county also reported for the first time the amount of 3,000 hospital hospitals per day.

Mark Ghaly, secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, acknowledged on Tuesday that the state’s ban on eating outdoors is related to preventing gatherings and restricting movement rather than the activity itself.

“The decision to integrate and restrict outdoor catering to other sectors – turning to restaurants to provide and provide them with more construction options – is in fact related to the goal of trying to keep people at home rather than the relative safety of outdoor meals. with a comment. , He said at a press conference.

“We’ve worked hard with the industry to create safer routes for outdoor meals – from keeping tables away, providing as much masking as possible, creating opportunities to continue air circulation – all of which factors allow sectors like outdoor meals to be lower risk meals. – He told.

But Ghaly said the current level of transmission means the California population needs to reduce their risk by leaving as little home as possible. The state reported 23,727 new cases on Monday – an increase from 11,000 just two weeks ago – and reported a seven-day positivity rate of 10.1 percent. Hospital care increased by nearly 71 percent and intensive care enrollment by 68.7 percent over the two-week period.

The exploding case prompted Governor Gavin Newsom last week to issue a new home stay order that divides the state into five regions and imposes new restrictions, including the closure of outdoor meals, based on ICU regional admission rates. State health officials moved two regions – Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley – to the new closure on Sunday night when intensive unit capacity fell below the 15 percent threshold.

Five Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley stepped ahead on Friday to comply with the order by Jan. 4, despite the region’s capacity at 24.5 percent. Regions that have to comply with the new order must do so for at least three weeks.

“Currently, there is such a high level of transmission that almost every activity – I have to say, every activity – that can be done differently and keeps us in our home, not mixed with others, is safer,” he said. “These will be the tools to help control this.”

But Ghaly did not respond directly to a journalist’s question about a Los Angeles judge’s request for more specific data showing that eating out is riskier than other leisure activities that are still allowed. Brett Giroir, the health secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told Fox News on Monday that he had not seen “any data that said he should shut down outdoor restaurants or outdoor bars”.

Ghaly noted that the order will continue to allow restaurants to take over and hand over, reiterating that “now is not the time to spend more time outside your household, possibly mingling with others, spreading the disease far away.”

According to him, the hope is that if the restrictions continue for a “short time”, the spread will be reduced enough for outdoor meals to continue. He said: “We look forward to overcoming the surge so that industry and many other sectors will reopen to business and truly go beyond the current period.”

The California Restaurant Association tried to block the county’s order last month before it took effect. Chalfant denied this request, but eventually ordered the county to submit evidence to support his decision. The restaurant trade group argued that the rule is arbitrary and unfair to businesses that have invested in outdoor dining areas to prevent the epidemic.

“In recent weeks, we have heard countless times from public health professionals that the most important sources of the spread of the coronavirus are festive gatherings and other private, household events that are unregulated,” said association president Jot Condie. Tuesday. “Without evidence, it is unreasonable that the county could completely close businesses and get thousands of restaurant employees out of work during the holidays.”

General Assembly James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus) compared the Los Angeles court ruling with a lower court ruling in a lawsuit filed with Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) challenging the use of Newsom’s emergency powers to shape the November election, including also the order in which the ballot paper is sent to each voter. Sarah Heckman, a judge at Sutter County Supreme Court, agreed that Newsom had exceeded her authority. Newsom has filed an appeal, the case is being challenged by a California appellate court.

“There still needs to be a link between what you commission and the actual suppression of the virus,” Gallagher said. “It’s a sign that the judiciary is finally starting to control these emergency powers, and they need to do it. We all agree that this is a serious epidemic and that emergency responses need to be made, but that doesn’t mean we are undermining the foundations. principles of our democracy. “

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the report relied on findings that appeared to be a summary of the judge and not on his own conclusions.