MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. - Los Angeles County's Public Health Department is asking that the city of Manhattan Beach's stop allowing a "workaround" to the current ban on outdoor dining.
In a letter penned to the city, County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said that the city's decision to repurpose outdoor dining areas as public seating areas violates "both the letter and the spirit of the revised temporary targeted safer at home health officer order issued December 9, 2020."
In early December, the city of Manhattan Beach took action to balance public health concerns and a struggling business community.
Manhattan Beach Mayor Suzanne Hadley said her community saw an opportunity to aid local businesses while meeting the stipulations of the order by repurposing city-owned patio areas set up to allow restaurants to serve diners outdoors into "public seating areas" where downtown shoppers can relax.
Davis said that the current restriction on outdoor dining is needed to "further the overall goal of temporarily suspending gatherings of people from different households due to the increasingly widespread community transmission of the COVID-19 infection across our country."
Marking the worst point of the COVID-19 pandemic, but warning of even more devastating times ahead, Los Angeles County health officials Wednesday reported record-shattering numbers of virus deaths, cases and hospitalizations that have the emergency medical system "under siege."
"By placing tables and chairs adjacent to restaurants, the city of Manhattan Beach is both violating and defeating the county's order and decidedly not safeguarding public health," the letter continues.
Davis goes on to say that on Dec. 6, the County Environmental Health staff visited Manhattan Beach restaurants to assess the compliance with the revised health order. The county staff observed customers dining at tables just outside of four restaurants: Simmzy's, Tacolicious, Nando Trattoria and Pancho's. The restaurant owners told the county staff that the seating was owned, controlled and provided by the city of Manhattan Beach. However, Davis noted that the chairs and tables outside the restaurants matched the restaurant's stock table and chairs and "are not property of the city," he said.
The county Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 138 additional coronavirus fatalities, seven of which were reported Tuesday by health officials in Long Beach. The new deaths, the highest single-day number ever reported, lifted the countywide cumulative total to 8,568.
Another 21,411 cases were also confirmed, marking another pandemic high, although about 7,000 of those cases were attributed to a reporting deadline from one of the county's largest test-processing labs. As of Wednesday, the county had a cumulative total of 539,097 confirmed cases from throughout the pandemic.
People eat take-out food outdoors at a "public parklet" due to Covid-19 restrictions on restaurant outdoor dining in Manhattan Beach, California, December 12, 2020. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Getty Images)
Davis noted that although the COVID-19 case rates in Manhattan Beach are lower than the overall county case rates, the COVID-19 case rate in Manhattan Beach has tripled since mid-September.
In a statement to FOX 11 Thursday afternoon, city officials said: "The City received the letter late Saturday night (December 12) from the Department of Public Health and is currently assessing the implications of the County’s revised protocols issued on December 11, 2020."