FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered the closure of bars in Fresno, Tulare and five other counties due to the rising spread of COVID-19.
The governor also required bars in Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles and San Joaquin counties to close, while he recommended they close in Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus and Ventura counties.
The counties listed in the order have been on the state Department of Public Health’s County Monitoring List.
“Californians must remain vigilant against this virus,” Newsom said. “COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger. That’s why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases. Each of us has the power to limit the spread of this virus.”
Newsom’s order affects brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs unless they offer sit-down meals. Alcohol can only be sold in the same transaction as a meal.
Restaurants, brewpubs, breweries, bars, and pubs that provide sit-down meals are advised to follow dine-in restaurant guidance and continue to encourage takeout and delivery service when possible.
Places that do not provide sit-down meals themselves, but can contract with another vendor, can serve dine-in meals provided both businesses follow dine-in restaurant guidance and can only sell alcohol in the same transaction as a meal, according to the order.
As bars in parts of the state close, the governor continued to urge Californians to wear face masks and continue physical distancing while outside.
“Wear a face covering and keep physically distant outside the home,” Newsom said. “Don’t gather in groups, and if you are older or have a condition that puts you at higher risk of COVID-19, protect yourself by staying home.”
On Saturday, the state reported a rise of nearly 6,000 confirmed virus cases from the day before. Nearly 5,900 people have died from coronavirus complications in the state. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Public health officials consider bars to be the highest-risk businesses during the pandemic because alcohol consumption reduces inhibition and impairs judgment, leading people to forget using face coverings or keep a safe distance from each other. Raising one’s voice in a loud bar leads to greater projection of droplets, they said.
Beyond the higher risk of transmission in bar settings, they said contact tracing is also more challenging because of the constant mixing of patrons and a lack of record-keeping of people coming and going.
The list of counties impacted by Sunday’s order was based on daily reports on the spread of the virus, state officials said. Counties that have been on the state’s watch list for between three and 14 days are being asked to close bars through local health orders. Those on the state’s watch list for more than 14 days are required to immediately close any bar that has reopened for business.
“We are actively monitoring COVID-19 across the state and working closely with counties where there are increased rates and concerning patterns of transmission,” the state public health officer, Dr. Sonia Angell, said. “Closing bars in these counties is one of a number of targeted actions counties are implementing across our state to slow the virus’ spread and reduce risk.”
The order comes as California grapples with a rise in positive coronavirus cases, especially among younger adults, following social gatherings over Memorial Day weekend, reopened businesses in many places, including restaurants, fitness centers and hair salons, and widespread street protests against police brutality.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
COVID-19 resource links:
- Fresno County
- Tulare County
- Madera County
- Mariposa County
- Merced County
- Kings County
- Kern County
- World Health Organization
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- California Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response