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A couple days after California finally lifted its statewide ban on outdoor dining, thus providing a much-needed sigh of relief to struggling restaurant owners, Los Angeles County health officials rushed in to impose new restrictions on said owners.
These restrictions mandate that servers wear a mask and face shield, that outdoor dining capacity not exceed 50 percent, that tables remain at least eight feet apart, that no more than six people be seated at a table and that televisions remain off.
The latter stipulation raised some eyebrows.
“Televisions or any other screens that are used to broadcast programming must be removed from the area or turned off. This provision is effective until further notice,” the county’s new order specifically reads.
The LA County Health Officer Order has been updated to allow outdoor dining at restaurants, breweries and wineries, effective today, January 29, with the following new protocols in place: https://t.co/utgwHgG9Ub pic.twitter.com/uPv7wJMqOB
— Los Angeles County (@CountyofLA) January 29, 2021
Why? The order doesn’t provide any reasons. Instead, it just contains a vague statement from notoriously emaciated Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer about how “public health actions” must be taken to “reduce transmission.”
“To the families mourning a loved one lost to COVID-19, we send our deepest sympathies. We really need everyone, both businesses and individuals, playing by the rules to reduce transmission of COVID-19. We all know if the precautions and safety measures are not followed, it is likely the County will again experience increases in cases, hospitalizations, and eventually deaths. The way to avoid this is for everyone to follow all of the public health directives all of the time,” she said.
“Transmission and risk are still very high and we are concerned about variants of the virus and what these may mean in our region. We absolutely don’t want to get to a place where have to close again, because that will mean more people are sick and more people will pass away,” Ferrer added. “As vaccination of our healthcare workers and residents continues, we must continue the core public health actions that reduce transmission, save lives and get us back to re-opening up our schools for our children.”
It’s unclear how preventing dining customers from enjoying a tad bit of entertainment from a restaurant’s television set would “reduce transmission.”
As such, the stipulation provoked a lot of at-times angry, and at-times sassy, responses.
I wasn’t aware that you could catch coronavirus by watching television.
— Dr. Gulag Inmate 3367125 (@Greg98071572) January 30, 2021
The TVs thing is quite possibly one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard. Good luck enforcing that.
— spudboy (@spudboy1234) January 29, 2021
TV shouldn’t make much of a difference if restaurants are limited to 50% patio capacity and tables are 8 ft apart. We’re really telling restaurants not to put the game on? Feels pretty arbitrary.
— jukeboxbluejay (@jukeboxbluejay) January 30, 2021
Pretty sure the same scientific journal that the LATU uses to determine when it’s safe to return to school stated watching TV while outdoor dining leads to exactly a 0% increase in covid transmissions so ofcourse make sure those TVs are off you grandma killing restauranteurs
— C-Red (@Coachred93) January 30, 2021
Can you please explain to me how watching TV will cause me to contract Covid?
— Eric Avissar (@EricAvissar) January 29, 2021
No TV makes as much sense as the curfew imposed. Whats the science behind covid and TV?
— Johnyblaze139 (@Johnyblaze139) January 30, 2021
It’s obvious the Health Department wants to stop people from watching the Super Bowl outdoors at sports bars/restaurants, so they are now going to force people to watch it indoors with private home gatherings by taking the outdoor option away. Absolutely brilliant 🙄
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) January 29, 2021
There seems, in fact, to be no “science” behind the stipulation — an observation that may not come as a surprise to those who’re aware of the county’s past controversies.
In late November the county inexplicably shuttered outdoor dining — a move that was copied statewide by Gov. Gavin Newsom several weeks later — after having spent months urging restaurants to invest in setting up certain outdoor safety “modifications.”
This prompted a lawsuit that ultimately resulted in a victory of sorts for restaurant owners.
The ban was “an abuse of the Department’s emergency powers [and] is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant ruled on Dec. 8th.
But because the governor had already instituted his own statewide ban on outdoor dining at the time, restaurant owners in L.A. County were still out of luck.
They were nevertheless pleased that at least the draconian, non-science-based edicts of their local Democrat leaders had been rebuked.
“I, and a lot of other people who operate restaurants, do feel vindicated. I think the [county’s outdoor dining ban] was made in a hasty attempt to corral the virus without giving too much thought to the after-effects,” Kat Turner, who owns the Highly Likely café in Los Angeles, said to Reason magazine at the time.
Given the clear-cut lack of scientific evidence vis-a-vis the ban on TVs, restaurant owners could conceivably score another victory were they to file suit again.
And since this time around Newsom hasn’t copied the actions of the county’s leaders, this victory would actually count.