US-NEWS-CORONAVIRUS-CALIF-LA

Customers sit in the outdoor seating at the Fire Up Bar & Grill in downtown Riverside on June 11, 2020 in Riverside, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered seven counties to immediately close any bars and nightspots that are open and recommended eight other counties take action on their own to close those businesses, citing the rapid pace of coronavirus spread. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Citing the rapid pace of coronavirus spread in some parts of the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered seven counties including Los Angeles immediately to close any bars and nightspots that are open and recommended eight other counties take action on their own to close those businesses.

The decision, a sign of growing concern about new COVID-19 cases, was announced in a statement issued by the governor's state public health director, Dr. Sonia Angell. Bars in seven counties are immediately impacted by the state order: Los Angeles, Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kings and Imperial.

Eight other counties have been asked by state officials to issue local health order closing bars: Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Stanislaus.

"COVID-19 is still circulating in California, and in some parts of the state, growing stronger," Newsom said in a written statement. "That's why it is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus in the counties that are seeing the biggest increases."

The list of counties impacted by Sunday's order was based, state officials said, on daily reports on the spread of the virus. Counties that have been on the state's watch list for between three and 14 days are being asked to close bars. Those being ordered to close the local businesses have been on the state's watch list for more than 14 days.

"We are actively monitoring COVID-19 across the state and working closely with counties where there are increased rates and concerning patterns of transmission," Angell said in a written statement. "Closing bars in these counties is one of a number of targeted actions counties are implementing across our state to slow the virus' spread and reduce risk."

The decision by Newsom stands in contrast to recent decisions to leave more of the decision making authority to local officials. The governor has said it is possible additional sectors of the state may need to scale back on openings, but has been hesitant to make those decisions in Sacramento.

Earlier this month, the governor ordered all Californians to wear face masks while in public or high-risk settings.

The alarm over the rising case numbers extends across California, where statewide cases topped 211,000. Hospitalizations and infection rates are also rising, and officials cite several likely factors including reopenings, the recent protest over George Floyd's killing by police and people doing private social gatherings.

Some officials are cracking down on scofflaw businesses while others are preparing to help overwhelmed hospitals.

On Friday Newsom said he was recommending that Imperial County reinstitute stricter stay-at-home orders, after it continued to report the highest per-capita case rate of any county in the state, as well as the highest rate of positive tests.

The county Board of Supervisors took no immediate action to direct businesses to shut down, but local officials were meeting with a state delegation Saturday to decide how to proceed.

In San Bernardino County, officials said that many hospitals are getting closer to reaching "surge capacity" and that they are making plans to open alternate care sites for patients if hospitals fill up.

In San Diego County, the health department on Friday ordered an Escondido restaurant to close immediately, saying its proprietor refused to follow public health directives imposed to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. And Belmont Park, an amusement park in Mission Bay, was closed Friday afternoon by officials who said it was operating rides in violation of state guidelines. The shutdown came on the same day that county officials announced the highest number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in a single day.

Another day of big increases in Los Angeles County coronavirus cases and hospitalizations prompted health officials Saturday to warn that Los Angeles County is entering a "critical moment" and that some of the easing of stay-at-home orders is in jeopardy unless the trend changes.

Los Angeles County public health officials on Saturday reported 2,169 new coronavirus cases.

"If we can't find it in us to follow these mandates, including wearing face coverings and distancing when around others, we jeopardize our ability to move forward on the recovery journey," Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said Saturday in a statement. "Our collective responsibility is to take immediate action, as individuals and businesses, to reverse the trends we are experiencing."

"If we can't find it in us to follow these mandates, including wearing face coverings and distancing when around others, we jeopardize our ability to move forward on the recovery journey," Barbara Ferrer, the county health director, said Saturday in a statement. "Our collective responsibility is to take immediate action, as individuals and businesses, to reverse the trends we are experiencing."

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