LA Public Health unable to provide data to support outdoor dining restrictions when pressed by county leader

Officials with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health were unable to provide any of their own data or evidence in support of their order to restrict outdoor dining at restaurants beginning Wednesday night.

DPH announced the new restrictions in a tweet on Sunday, without first discussing it with the Board of Supervisors. DPH cited a record surge of COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles as a reason for the order.


At Tuesday’s LA County Board of Supervisors meeting, DPH were pushed for answers on what data they used to issue the new restrictions.

Supervisor Janice Hahn questioned L.A. Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer, who deferred to DPH’s Dr. Muntu Davis.

“How many restaurants have been the site of workplace outbreaks?” Hahn asked Dr. Davis.

“Umm, I’ll have to pull that number up,” Dr. Davis replied. “The best data to give you in relation to contributions that come from people dining out at restaurants, where you cannot wear your face covering while you eat and drink, comes actually from the CDC. There was a case-controlled study, which is the highest standard that we have in terms of looking at data, that assessed information from 11 outpatient facilities, and 10 states, and noted that the cases were two times more likely to have dined out at a restaurant than those who did not. So that’s the best information we have that’s very specific to restaurants."

FOX 11 reviewed the CDC study, which included indoor dining in its results, which has been banned in LA County for months.

LA County Public Health officials were unable to cite any of their own evidence or data linking the surge in cases to outdoor dining in Los Angeles, which frustrated Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

“I want to reiterate that I am opposed to the closure of outdoor dining at restaurants, and after hearing Dr. Davis say that the evidence being used is a CDC study, and it’s the best info we have after 7 months. We have not been tracking info, actually reaffirms how upset I am about the fact that I feel this is arbitrary and punitive toward outdoor dining at restaurants,” Barger said.

But Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl pushed back, expressing support for the planned restrictions due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in LA County.

“I sadly, but strongly support moving our restaurants back to take-out and delivery, many of them adjusted in the first three months of this pandemic to providing service that way,” Kuehl said.

“We’re talking about impacting our economy a matter of three weeks, we can then come back and I hope to say, 'Did we all do the right thing?'” Solis said.

The Board voted 3-2 to move forward with the restrictions, with Supervisors Kuehl, Ridley Thomas and Solis all in support.

None of them responded to FOX 11’s requests for comment.

“This is complete hysteria and the problem is the price is going to be paid by those who can least afford it,” said attorney Mark Geragos.

Geragos has filed a lawsuit against LA County in response to their order, claiming they have no science or data to back up their move.

Geragos owns several restaurants, including one in downtown Los Angeles He says he hasn’t turned a profit since the pandemic began, opting instead to pay his employees out of pocket to keep them afloat.

“I’m as left as anybody, I’m as progressive as anybody and have been virtually my whole life, but this is not progressive, this is regressive,” Geragos said. “The Board of Supervisors, the three that voted for this today, they have outsourced their governing. They’ve outsourced it to Barbara Ferrer, who was not elected, do not have the qualifications, and has no answers frankly. There will be accountability. We’re suing, we’re not going away, we’ve got the deep pockets to pursue this and we’re going to pursue it.”

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Supervisor Janice Hahn asked Dr. Barbara Ferrer why they can’t simply target and close down specific restaurants that are not abiding by COVID-19 guidelines.

Ferrer responded that there are 31,000 restaurants in L.A. County, and her staff can only get around to roughly 300 of them per week.

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