Los Angeles and Orange counties will soon expand indoor dining and welcome back theme parks, bars and other businesses long shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials said Tuesday.
Both counties are officially scheduled to move into the orange tier, the third stage of the state’s reopening plan, when the risk of contracting the virus is considered “moderate.” Case rates have been lowered to the benchmark of between 1.0 and 3.9 daily new cases per 100,000 people, a standard among others set by the state in order for a county to move into the orange tier.
In L.A. County, the relaxing of restrictions is set to go into effect April 5, and county officials will begin posting about the new restrictions and advising businesses about them beginning Friday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a Tuesday news conference.
Orange County health officials released a statement Tuesday indicating the county will enter the orange tier Wednesday.
In the state’s four-stage reopening plan, the purple tier is when the risk level is highest and the virus is considered “widespread”; it holds the most closures and restrictions. It’s followed by the red tier, when the risk level is considered “substantial,” and then the orange tier. The stage with the lowest risk level is the yellow tier, which allows most indoor businesses to reopen with some modifications.
On Tuesday, health officials in L.A. County reported another 26 deaths and 386 new cases, bringing the total death toll to 23,110 and the case count to 1,218,958. Meanwhile, Orange County recorded another 14 fatalities for a death toll of 4,740 and 106 more infections for a total of 250,537 cases.
Over the past month, the daily average number of deaths fell by 75% in L.A. County, Ferrer said. Since the end of February, the daily average number of cases has decreased by 50% and hospitalizations have gone down 52% — major signs of improvement since a troubling surge put health officials on high alert at the start of the year.
“This is due to residents and businesses doing their part and following the safety measures,” Ferrer said. “If we wish to maintain these low numbers, it will be essential that each of us not get sloppy and that we continue to follow the protocols.”
Now that O.C. and L.A. County are in the orange tier, movie theaters and restaurants can allow 50% capacity or 200 people — whichever is fewer — versus being limited to just 25% capacity when they were in the red tier. For the first time in several months, bars that do not serve food will be allowed to welcome back customers, but only with outdoor seating.
Wineries, breweries and distilleries where meals are not served can reopen indoors but capacity must be limited to 25% or 100 people, whichever is less.
Houses of worship can expand indoor activities to 50% capacity while gyms and fitness centers can increase their indoor capacity to 25% versus just 10% when in the red tier.
Grocery stores, hair salons and other businesses offering personal care services can increase their capacity to 75%.
A full list of business re-openings and other changes can be found on the website for the California Department of Public Health.