On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom ordered bars to close in seven California counties, including four in the San Joaquin Valley: Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Kings. He also recommended bar closures in eight others. Health officials in Kern County, however, say the order was made without consulting them.
The order follows a steep rise in COVID-19 cases statewide, and it targets counties that had been put on a list for close monitoring due to local outbreaks. Outside of those four in the Valley, bar closures are also ordered in Imperial, Los Angeles and San Joaquin Counties, and recommended in Contra Costa, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Stanislaus and Ventura Counties--some of which had not yet allowed bars to reopen.
“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,” said California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell in a press release.
In Kern County, just like the others on the list, daily new case totals and hospitalization rates are rising. During a June 29 press conference, however, County Epidemiologist Kim Hernandez said that no significant outbreaks could be traced back to bars. “If there is a significant concern to the community or an imminent public health risk, we would immediately notify the public,” she said. “As we haven’t had to do that so far, we do not have anything to report specifically about bars contributing to the number of cases.”
During the same meeting, Kern’s Chief Administrator Ryan Alsop didn’t provide details for how the county would enforce the order—on the businesses themselves or on misbehaving customers—but reflected that the governor’s order might be enforcement enough.
“I think a big motivator is that the state has just demonstrated that they’re willing to come in and shut down a group of businesses in our county,” he said. “They can certainly do that for other businesses. So if we want to continue to see those actions happen, then we can ignore all the guidance that’s being provided,” like maintaining six feet of distance and wearing masks when coming into contact with other people.
The bar closure order is effective immediately.