BLM protest in LA
© Reuters / Ringo Chiu
People take part in an All Black Lives Matter march, organized by Black LGBTQ+ leaders, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, US, June 14, 2020.
Health officials in Los Angeles County have declared a new "safer-at-home" order, clamping down its Covid-19 restrictions to ban most gatherings for a three-week period, but created exemptions for religious services and protests.

The new directive, which will take effect next week and stay in force until December 20, will prohibit all public and private gatherings involving people from different households and impose further occupancy limits on businesses, the county health department announced on Friday.
Residents are advised to stay home as much as possible and always wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are outside their household and around others.

However, the order carves out exceptions for those attending "faith based services and protests," allowing those activities as they are "constitutionally protected rights."

Besides take-out and delivery, restaurants and bars will remain closed under the new order, while certain other "non-essential" facilities, such as playgrounds and card rooms, will be shuttered altogether. Outdoor recreation will be permitted, but only for individuals from the same household, who will be required to don face coverings and remain six feet away from other people.

LA County - by far California's most populous with over 10 million residents - has so far recorded more than 387,000 coronavirus infections and some 7,600 deaths, according to official data. The district has seen a surge in cases in recent days, reporting more than 4,500 new infections over the last 24 hours. California as a whole is among the worst-affected states in the US, approaching 1.2 million cases of the virus and over 19,000 deaths.