A California judge on Tuesday ruled that Los Angeles County had acted “arbitrarily” and without rational justification in banning outdoor dining last month.
“The Restaurant Closure Order is an abuse of the Department’s emergency powers, is not grounded in science, evidence, or logic, and should be adjudicated to be unenforceable as a matter of law,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant wrote, according to Politico.
Though the judge noted that “outdoor restaurant dining in the county cannot reopen at this time” in accordance with the state’s overriding regional stay-at-home order. The order to shutter all in-person dining came after the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to enact the ban on November 24.
The judge said the county’s argument — which noted concerns over secondary transmission of the virus and uncontrolled community transmission — was inconsistent with evidence that showed cases related to bars and restaurants were just 3.1 percent of the non-residential outbreak locations, “the vast majority of which were chain/fast food type restaurants” that largely occurred among employees, not customers, according to Politico.
Chalfant also said that L.A. County “could be expected to consider the economic cost of closing 30,000 restaurants, the impact to restaurant owners and their employees, and the psychological and emotional cost to a public tired of the pandemic,” according to Fox 11.
County officials said they “vehemently” disagreed with the judge’s ruling and Amnon Siegel, a lawyer for the county, argued that an economic analysis the judge had requested was not required by law and a “borderline impossible task,” according to FOX 11 of Los Angeles.
Jot Condie, CEO of the California Restaurant Association, which filed the legal challenge against the ban, argued on Tuesday that the public health officials had closed restaurants without adequate scientific evidence.
“For nine months now, we’ve listened to our public health officials tell us that these shutdown orders are based on or they are guided by evidence and science, and we have an L.A. health department who has essentially targeted the restaurant industry as if we are responsible for the latest outbreak in the pandemic when the evidence proves otherwise,” Condie told Fox News.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Monday that data on transmission among mask-less people at restaurants was, “crystal clear at every single level that you look at it.”
“I don’t think there’s any debate that, where people are in close proximity with other people not in their household, not wearing a mask and mingling for extended periods of time talking, singing, sharing — there’s an increased risk of transmission,” Ferrer said, according to Deadline.
On Tuesday the county reported 8,547 new COVID-19 cases and 64 deaths. At least 3,113 people in the county are hospitalized with the virus.
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