10 p.m. curfew imposed for all San Diego County restaurants in response to coronavirus increase


It’s not just bars that will be affected by a set of new rules seeking to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in San Diego County. Starting July 1, restaurants of all kinds must close to newly arriving customers by 10 p.m., the county health department says.

Bars not serving food were already mandated to shut down at 12:01 a.m. July 1. But public health officials added the significant additional mandate for restaurants and bars that serve food just hours before the new rule was to take effect.

The fresh set of edicts, though, has wrinkles.

Restaurants, including those that do not serve alcohol, must be “closed” from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following day. But patrons already inside when closing time arrives will be allowed to stay until 11 p.m. Staff required to clean the facilities may remain inside after closing hours.

Everybody, whether inside or out, restaurant or bar, may only serve to people who are seated at tables. Open seating will not be allowed, and mingling with people outside one’s immediate party is forbidden. Alcoholic drinks may only be served as part of a meal and must be sold and served in the same transaction.

The set of restrictions, which still include social distancing and mask mandates, arrive as the region, like the state and the nation, sees increased numbers of positive coronavirus cases and additional burdens appearing in hospitals.

Only a day after California recorded its highest single-day count of coronavirus cases — more than 8,000 infections — the state’s death toll surpassed 6,000.

The latest numbers announced June 30 were mixed. Though the 317 additional cases were significantly fewer than the single-day record 498 added the day before, local COVID-19 hospitalizations continued to increase, reaching a new record of 493 across the county. Deaths also increased, reaching 365 from a previous total of 361. The county’s 14-day average positive test rate continued to hover around 4.2 percent.

Officials said they know the latest orders affecting restaurants and bars are not likely to be popular with the public, especially with the Fourth of July weekend approaching. But county Supervisor Greg Cox said allowing bars to remain open and restaurants to stay open late would invite trouble. The state already had ordered other counties surrounding San Diego to shut their bars, and being the lone county in Southern California with bars and restaurants open late on the Fourth didn’t seem like the right adventure to choose, he said.

“Having San Diego bars open exposes us to risk of larger crowds here celebrating the holiday at our establishments and accelerating the spread of the virus,” Cox said. “It’s a risk we do not want to take.”

There seems to be less concern about local beaches becoming magnets for weekend visitors from the north and east.

Though Los Angeles County has already announced that its coastline will be closed, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said a similar plan had not yet surfaced in San Diego. Fletcher said public health data does not show many coronavirus outbreaks outdoors, prompting the county to leave open-or-close decisions to individual beach cities and the state parks department.

“I’ve spoken to a few of the coastal mayors who all feel confident they can maintain order at their beaches throughout the holiday weekend,” Fletcher said.

Dr. Eric McDonald, medical director of the county’s epidemiology department, provided a bit more information June 30 on the role that recent protests have played in the region’s growing numbers of new coronavirus cases. McDonald said that, to date, 29 people had reported attending a protest within 14 days of starting to exhibit symptoms of coronavirus infection. Some, he said, attended protests outside San Diego County, and one was not a local resident. However, he added, the data the county collects seldom proves exactly how a person became infected.

“We’re not saying that these individuals contracted their infections at those events,” McDonald said. “It’s just among the things they said they did in the two weeks before they became ill.”

The county continued to say that, so far, it has detected no outbreaks linked to protests. An outbreak is three or more cases from different households contracted in the same location. ◆