Dozens of businesses, churches cited by LA County for health order violations

GLENDALE, CA - MAY 27: People exit a Shoe City store as Los Angeles County retail businesses reopen while the COVID-19 pandemic continues on May 27, 2020 in Glendale, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

More than 70 citations have been issued over the past month to various businesses and organizations, most notably churches and gyms, for violating health restrictions imposed to control spread of COVID-19, but Los Angeles County's health officer said on Thursday no closures have been ordered.

Dr. Muntu Davis said, however, that failures to adhere to the restrictions, particularly those barring many indoor business operations and worship services, can exacerbate virus spread.

"Not just for us in terms of public health but others who are watching and monitoring the spread of this virus and trying to do everything we can to control it, it is concerning when we don't have compliance with the measures that are needed in order to slow the spread of this within our county,'' Davis said in an online media briefing.

"As we go through, we continue to look at all options that might be available to us,'' he said. "Of course, I can't go into a lot of details on each case, but (we) continue to try to build what we need to in terms of getting compliance from everyone. This is really what's needed at this point. Everybody has to do what they need to do in order to slow it down.

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"And at some point, you know, this may be a thing of the past, but until we get to that point, we really do need everyone's cooperation and assistance.''

According to figures posted on the county Department of Public Health website, 71 citations were issued "due to lack of compliance with Health Officer Orders'' between Aug. 29 and Sunday.

Several businesses were cited multiple times over that period, including a Coast Fitness facility in Hawthorne, which was cited at least four times; various locations of Crunch Fitness, including those in Cerritos, La Mirada and Lancaster; and Powerhouse Gym in Torrance that was cited at least
five times.

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Multiple churches are also on the list, including Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, which the county took to court and obtained an injunction to bar the facility from holding indoor worship services. According to the county, the church has been cited three times since the court order was issued on Sept. 10.

Davis declined to give any specifics on other punitive actions the county might pursue against repeat violators of the health orders, but he confirmed that ``to date, none of them have been issued a closure order.'' 

But at a crucial time when health officials are fearing a post-Labor Day surge in cases -- possibly evidenced by a recent rise in daily coronavirus case numbers and an increase in the overall transmission rate -- Davis said infection-control measures are crucial for businesses and residents.

"We're watching ... if that (transmission rate) is going to continue to head up in that direction that it's going at the moment, if it's going to speed up or slow down,'' he said. "But it's always going to be a concern especially as we start to open up more and we have more people out and about, as we've seen in the past -- in July when we had our spike and a number of things were open as well.

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"But again, this goes back to what people do, what businesses do in terms of trying to reduce the transmission,'' he said. "Those things can happen, but everybody has to adhere to the precautions that are needed in order to really slow the spread of this virus and allow us to do more than what we're able to do right now.''

Davis said health officials will be closely watching this week's case numbers to determine if Labor Day resulted in rapid spread of the virus through public or private gatherings.