Virus cases plunge and San Francisco, Los Angeles come back to life

By BRIAN MELLEY and JANIE HAR | The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES – When Angeleno Wine Co. reopened its tasting room, co-owner Amy Luftig Viste teared up seeing old friends reunited for the first time since the pandemic had shuttered so many businesses it left major cities looking like ghost towns.

Even with limited capacity, animated conversations flowed from the tables set among barrels of aging wine and echoed off the brick walls of the winery hidden in an industrial section on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles.

“It felt like the winery had come alive again,” Luftig Viste said Sunday, the day after it reopened after being closed all but two weeks over the past 13 months.

The din in the small space is destined to get louder when capacity is allowed to double to 50% as Los Angeles and San Francisco lead the way toward a broader reopening of California businesses.

The state’s signature cities are likely Tuesday to be the only major urban areas in the state to meet virus case thresholds for the least-restrictive tier, allowing indoor bars to reopen, larger crowds to cheer on Major League Baseball’s Dodgers and Giants, and expanded capacity at restaurants, movie theaters, amusement parks, gyms and other establishments.

It’s a remarkable turnaround considering California was the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the U.S. just a few months ago.

The two cities have weathered the pandemic differently but are emerging in the same place after a statewide shutdown in March 2020 emptied streets, shuttered shops and restaurants, and darkened office buildings.

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While San Francisco largely beat the coronavirus by avoiding it, Los Angeles was nearly beaten by it during the winter surge. At its worst point, more than 500 people a day were dying in California and hospitals in the LA area could barely treat the overwhelming influx of patients.

San Francisco reached the least-restrictive yellow tier for a brief period in October, the only urban area to do so, before an alarming surge in cases forced a retreat. LA never emerged from the most restrictive tier until March.

Now, California has the lowest case rate in the country. Los Angeles County, which is home to a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million people and has endured a disproportionate number of the state’s 60,000 deaths, didn’t record a single COVID-19 death Sunday or Monday.

As spring warms up, freeways are becoming congested, workers are returning to offices, and people are heading to restaurants and breweries.

On Sunday in the Arts District in downtown LA, drivers circled the block looking for parking spaces. Diners filled the sidewalk tables of Wurstküche, eating sausages and drinking Belgian and German beer. A line of people waiting for a table at Angel City Brewery extended down the street.

Chris Sammons said he felt a civic obligation to get out and support businesses.

“It feels like almost a duty to be engaged with the city,” Sammons said. “We have to bring LA back to life.”

It was the first time out for his friend, Stephen Tyler, who said he was …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

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