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Orange County Bans All Public, Private Gatherings - Including Work - Outside Single Household

SANTA ANA (CBSLA) –  Orange County officials Tuesday took unprecedented action by banning all public and private gathers beyond those of a single household as jurisdictions across the world grapple with the spread of coronavirus.

County health officer Dr. Nicole Quick issued the order effective immediately prohibiting "all public and private gatherings of any number of people, including at places of work, occurring outside a single household or living space."


The order does not prohibit members of any household or living unit from gathering and will remain in place through March 31.

It applies to all "professional, social, and community gatherings" outside of a list of "essential activities", which includes healthcare infrastructure, first responders and emergency personnel, grocery stores, TV, radio and media services, plumbers, laundromats, and restaurants and bars.

Restaurants and other food-serving facilities will only be allowed to provide delivery or carry-out services. "Social distancing" - the now-prevalent practice of maintaining approximately six feet of distance from all persons - will be required for everyone picking up food on site.

After the health order went into effect, the normally bustling, historic Old Towne Orange was practically empty, as bars, restaurants, and other non-essential businesses closed their doors.

"You know, we want to be smart and take precautions," said Tustin resident Paul Stebner.

Still, Stebner and his wife, Marnie, are not on board with the OC health officer's order prohibiting public and private gatherings of any number.

"It's just gone a little too far," Marnie said.

The order is hurting OC businesses, too. O'Hara's Pub had to shut down on St. Patrick's Day, because it does not sell food.

"Closing down just isn't fun, in any way shape or form," said manager Jason Gardner. "[It's] awful, because I do have employees and I worry about them."

Many employees, who are already living paycheck to paycheck, will be out of work for at least two weeks.

"I have a little money saved up, but I was saving that money for an actual emergency," said Nicholas Lacava, a bouncer at O'Hara's.

Signs at many storefronts announce the temporary business closures, but some wonder if prohibiting public gatherings will backfire and cause more panic buying.

At Ralph's in Orange, people had to get in line outside on Tuesday evening. The grocery store only allowed 25 households in every 10 minutes.

coronavirus restaurant closures
Patrons arrive at a closed food court where tables are placed on top of tables but takeout orders are available Los Angeles, California on March 17, 2020 as the coronavirus epidemic leads to restaurant and school closures as workers work from home in an effort to encourage social distancing. - The White House has suggested gatherings limited to 10 people or less as the number of coronavirus cases across the country passes 5,000 with 100 dead. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The order is enforceable by police and sheriff's officials.

"We recognize community members may experience anxiety related to the social disruption caused by COVID-19, and want to encourage residents to reach out to loved ones using appropriate methods like telephone, video messaging, email, and text," said Quick, who first unveiled the plan during an emergency meeting of Board of Supervisors Tuesday.

Similar restaurant closure orders have already been issued in Los Angeles and Riverside counties, as well as multiple cities, including L.A., Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

Quick has the legal authority to issue the orders regulating restaurant and bar operations, and the mandate could be enforced by a fine or even criminal prosecution.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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