A Los Angeles County Supervisor dined outdoors just hours after voting to ban outdoor dining at restaurants in the county over concerns about the spread of coronavirus.
Earlier that day, Kuehl described outdoor dining as ‘a most dangerous situation,’ telling a meeting of the LA County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday that the practice was unsafe.
‘This is a serious health emergency and we must take it seriously,’ Kuehl said. ‘The servers are not protected from us, and they’re not protected from their other tables that they’re serving at that particular time, plus all the hours in which they’re working.’
Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl was seen eating outside at Il Forno Trattoria, an Italian restaurant near her home in Santa Monica, California last Tuesday, Fox News reported. Just hours earlier she had voted to ban al fresco dining amid a rise in coronavirus cases
Fox News reported that Kuehl’s visit to the restaurant came on the last day before the outdoor dining ban took effect on the county’s 31,000 restaurants last Wednesday evening.
Social media users were quick to criticise Kuehl’s ‘outrageous’ behaviour, with some even saying she should resign.
One Twitter user wrote: ‘As a restaurant employee who has been affected by her vote this is infuriating…There needs to be accountability from the voters on this!!!’
Another said that if Kuehl believed dining outdoors was ‘dangerous’, as she had said, she should not have been dining out herself.
‘Our CA political “leaders” have shown nothing but hypocrisy & utter contempt for their constituents time and time again, a third user wrote in frustration.
However, several others did point out that Kuehl’s meal out did not actually break any rules as it was before the ban came into place.
Managers at Il Forno Trattoria told the station that they ‘didn’t want to get involved,’ while a spokesperson for Kuehl acknowledged that she did indeed dine outside ‘on the very last day it was permissible’.
‘She loves Il Forno, has been saddened to see it, like so many restaurants, suffer from a decline in revenue. She ate there, taking appropriate precautions, and sadly will not dine there again until our Public Health Orders permit,’ the statement said.
Managers at Il Forno Trattoria, where Kuehl was dining, said that they ‘didn’t want to get involved,’ while a spokesperson for Kuehl acknowledged that she did indeed dine outside ‘on the very last day it was permissible’
Kuehl and two other supervisors – Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, supported the order to ban outdoor dining. It passed by a 3-2 margin after a last-minute move to overturn the decision was unsuccessful.
Some health officials have criticised the move, saying there is no evidence to support claims that outdoor dining is responsible for the recent surge in coronavirus cases in the area, Fox News reported.
On Monday, the county recorded 5,077 new cases, adding to the total of at least 401,000.
Some 7,655 people in the county have died from the virus.
On Friday, LA County – the US’s most populous – announced a new stay at home measure, banning most gatherings but stopping short of a full lockdown.
Board of Supervisors Chair Kathryn Barger – who favored overturning the decision has said that data from the Department of Public Health showed only 10 to 15% of positive cases reported had come from dining out with someone who tested positive, while more than 50% reported being at a private social gathering with someone who tested positive.
California Governor Gavin Newsom (pictured) said he may impose tougher restrictions over the next two days, including a possible stay-at-home order, to counter surging COVID-19 hospitalizations that threaten to overwhelm intensive care units before Christmas Eve
‘It’s frustrating to me that we are doing something that has no correlation to the surge, none,’ she told Fox News.
‘We know what it is. It is public gatherings. And by closing restaurants, many of these people that have reservations are going to go where? Gatherings with other families because many of them didn’t have any plans. So I think it’s going to have the complete opposite effect.’
The furore over Kuehl came as California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday that he may impose tougher restrictions over the next two days.
Newsom said projections show ICU admissions are on track to exceed statewide capacity by mid-December unless public health policies and social behavior patterns are altered to further curb the spread of the virus.
‘California’s #COVID19 hospitalizations have increased by 89% in the last two weeks,’ Newsom tweeted on Monday. ‘If these trends continue, our current hospitalizations could increase by 2-3 times within ONE MONTH.’
Just an hour later, the governor tweeted: ‘This is the tipping point. CA has worked hard to prepare for a surge—but we can’t sustain the record high cases we’re seeing.
‘Current projections show CA will run out of current ICU beds before Christmas Eve. Please stay safe & stay home as much as you can for next few weeks.’