Los Angeles County has issued a new COVID-19 pandemic order that prohibits most gatherings and discourages most crowds, the latest in a series of desperate moves aimed at slowing an unprecedented surge of coronavirus infections.

How does it work?

It’s certainly not as severe as the stay-at-home order issued in March. But it does mean that most gatherings — apart from outdoor church services and outdoor political protests — will again be banned starting Monday and last for the next three weeks, until Dec. 20. Still, it is the strictest currently in California, a sign of how serious conditions are in L.A. County.

Retail stores will remain open, albeit at a more limited capacity.

The new order comes as L.A. County faces its worst crisis of the pandemic. In recent weeks, the number of new daily coronavirus cases has quadrupled, while hospitalizations and daily deaths have tripled. Officials have warned that unless transmission rates drop substantially, L.A. County is on track to run short of hospital beds within two to four weeks.

The latest surge began to be detected in late October, and began accelerating in November.

Here’s a summary of the changes:

Ban on gatherings, except for worship

and political protests

For the first time since early October, most gatherings among people from different households in L.A. County will be again be officially prohibited, with the exception of outdoor religious gatherings and outdoor political protests.

This will supersede the existing rule that allowed for only small, outdoor gatherings of 15 or fewer people from up to three different households, for a duration of no more than two hours.

Retail limits on capacity

Essential retail stores will be limited to 35% of capacity; for grocery stores, that would be a reduction from the current cap of 50% capacity.

Nonessential retail stores, malls, libraries and personal care establishments such as hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, piercing shops, tanning services and massage therapy will be limited to 20% of capacity; currently, they can operate at 25% of capacity.

Outdoor museums and zoos at half capacity

A 50% capacity limit will apply to outdoor museums, galleries, zoos and aquariums. Existing rules allow as many patrons as can be accommodated while maintaining six feet of distance from people from other households.

Outdoor gym and mini-golf, batting cages, and go-kart racing establishment capacity remains unchanged at 50% of maximum capacity.

Playgrounds must shut except those at schools and child-care centers

Playgrounds that are not part of a school or child-care center must close under the new order.

Cardrooms must shut

Outdoor cardrooms, which under existing rules have been able to operate, must close.

Outdoor recreation spaces remain open

Beaches, trails and parks remain open, as do golf courses, tennis courts, pickleball courts, archery ranges, skate parks, bike parks and community gardens. Visitors must wear masks and stay at least six feet away from people from other households.

Outdoor swimming pools that serve more than one household will be restricted to regulated lap swimming with one person per lane.

Schools and child care rules largely left unchanged

Child care centers, schools and day camps that have remained open under current protocols can continue operating with one new requirement: mandatory closure for 14 days should an outbreak occur, which is defined as three or more cases over a two-week period.

Orders that haven’t changed

  • Restaurants in most of L.A. County can now offer only takeout and pickup service; outdoor dining areas were ordered shut Wednesday night, except within the city of Pasadena, which has its own independent public health department.
  • The state has issued a limited overnight stay-at-home order, which forbids nonessential activities outside the home with members of other households between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

The virus is now far more widespread in Los Angeles County than at any point since the surge of the early summer, with one out of every 145 people now currently infectious, according to county estimates. “If people do participate in gatherings, it can be quite dangerous,” warned Dr. Christina Ghaly, the county director of health services. “Much of the COVID-19 transmission occurs before any symptoms occur” among the infected person.

County Supervisor Hilda Solis said in a statement that she supported the new health order. Previous orders issued in the spring and summer have been successful in reducing transmission.

“When the case rate reaches a certain point, it takes drastic measures to slow down the spread of this tremendously deadly virus,” said Solis, whose district includes East L.A., southeast L.A. County and the San Gabriel Valley. “We must keep ourselves and our families safe so that we can avoid getting sick and adding even more burden to our already overwhelmed healthcare system.”

Here’s a summary of how the state and other counties are faring in Southern California. Some counties have not reported cases or deaths daily due to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.


California has seen daily coronavirus cases quadruple and hospitalizations triple in recent weeks. Daily deaths are up 70% in less than a month.

California is now averaging nearly 13,000 cases a day over a seven-day period, and more than 60 Californians a day are dying on average over the same period.

Los Angeles County

L.A. County is now averaging 4,300 new coronavirus cases daily as of late Friday, far worse than the summertime surge when the average daily case rate maxed out at 3,300.

Hospitalizations have risen at an increasingly faster pace for 15 consecutive days. As of Thursday, there were nearly 2,000 people in L.A. County’s hospitals with COVID-19 — close to its previous high of more than 2,200 recorded in the summer.

COVID-19 deaths have also started to rise. L.A. County is recording roughly 30 deaths a day over the past seven days, double the number from less than two weeks ago.

San Diego County

San Diego County‘s average new case count has quadrupled and hospitalizations have doubled in recent weeks. California’s second most populous county is now averaging more than 1,000 new cases a day; in early October, that figure was just above 250.

There were more than 560 people with coronavirus infections in San Diego County hospitals on Thursday, about double the number three weeks ago.

Orange County

Orange County‘s average of new daily coronavirus cases has quadrupled and hospitalizations have doubled in recent weeks.

Orange County is averaging nearly 1,000 coronavirus cases a day over a seven-day period; on Nov. 1, just 220 people with positive virus diagnoses were in the hospital.

More than 500 people were in the hospital on Thursday; there were fewer than 250 on Nov. 14.

Riverside County

Hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled in Riverside County since the start of October. Nearly 500 people with coronavirus infections were in the hospital on Thursday; on Oct. 1, 130 people were in the hospital.

San Bernardino County

Average new daily coronavirus cases have increased more than fivefold since mid-October in San Bernardino County. Nearly 1,300 new cases a day were reported on average over a seven-day period as of Friday; on Oct. 18, the rate was 250 cases a day.

Hospitalizations tripled in the past month; there were 656 people in the hospital with COVID-19 on Thursday; on Oct. 26, 217 people were in the hospital.

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