Orange County to ban dine-in services, encourages pickup and delivery amid coronavirus outbreak

To minimize the outbreak of coronavirus, Orange County's chief health officer said Tuesday she will issue an order banning dine-in service at restaurants, leaving them open to pickup and delivery, and also close down bars that do not serve food.

Dr. Nichole Quick unveiled the plan during an emergency meeting of the county Board of Supervisors to discuss the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. Supervisor Andrew Do urged Quick to issue the mandate by noon, while Supervisor Don Wagner questioned whether it would stoke more panic among residents who, like many Americans, have been engaging in `"panic buying" at grocery stores over the past couple of weeks.

Similar restaurant and bar closure orders have already been issued in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties.

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Orange County CEO Frank Kim said his office is working with officials in the grocery industry to issue a public statement assuring residents there is no issue with the supply of food and no one should feel like they need to stock up on food.

Quick has the legal authority to issue the orders regulating restaurant and bar operations, and the mandate could be enforced by a fine or even criminal prosecution.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett noted that some bars and restaurants were still holding St. Patrick's Day festivities on Tuesday.

Wagner questioned whether a closure of restaurants for dine-in business would lead some residents to panic that grocery stores will be closed next.

Do responded that casual contact in stores is less risky than longer contact in enclosed spaces such as restaurants.

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"What we do know is how it is transmitted -- it's person to person, so there's an effort to reduce person-to person contact as much as possible," Orange County Health Care Agency Director Richard Sanchez said. "But we still need utilities and water... I hear what you're saying, but I do believe the effort you're seeing at federal and state level goes to that exact concept."