California health experts question whether state’s outdoor dining ban contributed to coronavirus surge

New coronavirus strain found in 12 California counties

Dr. Marty Makary tells ‘Fox & Friends First’ the new strain is ‘something we need to monitor.’

Despite having implemented some of the strictest measures in the nation to combat the coronavirus, California retains the highest number of cases.

In recent weeks, the Golden State has climbed to the number one spot, with nearly 240,000 cases reported in the last week and more than 3 million in total, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Farmworkers wait in the holding area after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Tudor Ranch in Mecca, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.
(AP)

The state is averaging 42,000 new virus cases a day and recorded 3,500 virus deaths in the last week alone. On Monday, the death toll topped 30,000 since the pandemic began.

The grim milestone comes after California Gov. Gavin Newsom in early December banned outdoor dining despite there being no evidence that it is linked with COVID-19 transmission.

Now, health experts are questioning whether the outdoor dining ban actually contributed to – rather than mitigated – the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases.

“I would say outdoor dining certainly did not help and likely hindered efforts to avoid a surge,” Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF told SFGate.

Gandhi argued that the restrictions imposed by the Newsom administration failed to understand human beings’ need to be with other people.

She pointed out that many Californians, without the option to dine outdoors over the holidays, turned to riskier at-home gatherings in defiance of the governor’s orders.

“Of course, not everyone stuck to their masks and distancing plans once they went inside,” Gandhi said. “You obviously have to take your mask off to eat, and the virus spreads much more easily indoors.”

Dr. Brad Pollock, associate dean for public health sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine, likewise questioned the effectiveness of Newsom’s stay-at-home order in curbing the pandemic.  

“I wouldn’t say the stay-at-home orders have been futile, but they probably haven’t had a huge impact on what’s actually happened with the transmission patterns.”

Last week, Newsom lifted the stay-at-home order in the 13-county Sacramento region as hospital conditions improved. Supervisor Mike Ziegenmeyer of Sutter County in the Sacramento region called the order being lifted “exciting” but at the same time asked: “Who adheres to it?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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