UPDATE: California’s stay-at-home orders lifted, L.A. County to align with state by end of week

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Courtesy of the Office of the Governor
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California’s regional stay-at-home orders were lifted across all regions statewide Monday, green-lighting the reopening of in-person dining and hair and nail salons, among other businesses. Los Angeles County is set to align its health order with the state by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, the health officer order issued by L.A. County Department of Public Health on Nov. 25 is in effect, allowing personal care services to reopen, but notably not including immediate restaurant reopenings, which Director Barabara Ferrer said will be included only in the new order to be released Friday.  

“On Friday … we’ll issue a new health officer order that allows for restaurants to reopen for outdoor dining with occupancy limits and masking requirements for all staff,” Ferrer added during a COVID-19 briefing Monday. “We will also on Friday rescind the hours-of-operation restrictions for non-essential businesses.”

With COVID-19 conditions improving statewide, the lifting of the order is set to allow all counties statewide to return to the color-coded tier system and rules set forth by the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, which allows businesses and activities to open based on each county’s case rate and test positivity, though individual counties could choose to impose stricter rules.

“Los Angeles County will essentially align with the state by the end of the week to allow for the reopening of permitted activities under the purple tier,” said county Supervisor Hilda Solis, of the 1st District. “This includes outdoor dining.”

County Public Health officials said Monday the following can immediately reopen with limitations as required under the state’s guidelines: 

  • Private gatherings: Outdoors only and with no more than three households or a 15-person limit. 
  • Indoors at 25% capacity: Personal care services, malls and retail. 
  • Outdoors at 50% capacity: Family entertainment centers and cardrooms.  
  • Outdoors with modifications: Gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums. 

Places of worship can resume indoors although they are recommended for outdoors, with tourism and individual travel is once again allowed with modifications.

Santa Clarita officials welcomed the news of the lifted order Monday, saying the move would help improve the local economy so long as L.A. County did not decide to keep or impose stricter restrictions. 

“I’m very happy (about) two things: One, that the state feels comfortable enough to do that and that our economy will get back to where it needs to be,” said Mayor Bill Miranda. 

“We’re hoping that the county (won’t) … come back with their own stricter stay-at-home order, which, you know, they’ve done in the past,” added City Manager Ken Striplin. 

L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger released a statement shortly after the state’s announcement, saying: “I support following the governor’s recommended guidelines for Southern California, and reopening outdoor dining, personal care services and other industries that were previously closed by these orders. A data-driven and pragmatic policy approach is essential to protecting public health, while balancing the devastating social, emotional and economic impacts of this virus.”

While state Public Health officials said counties could begin resuming services immediately, Barger spokeswoman Michelle Vega said it is unclear when L.A. County would be discussing revising its own order, though it is likely that discussion would occur during Tuesday morning’s regular county Board of Supervisors meeting. 

Under these guidelines, L.A. County, along with the majority of the state’s counties, would remain in the strictest, purple tier, which would allow restaurants to resume in-person dining outdoors only, along with allowing the reopening of personal care services, including hair and nail salons, indoors with modifications, as well as allowing outdoor operations to resume for gyms, wineries, family entertainment centers and cardrooms, among others, and increasing capacity at certain retail sectors.

The news first broke in a letter sent to restaurant owners Sunday evening by the California Restaurant Association, which said they’d been informed by senior officials in Newsom’s administration that the governor would lift the order in all regions of the state Monday. 

A statement released by state Public Health officials Monday morning announced the order would be lifted for the three regions still under it, including the Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California region, of which L.A. County is a part, as the four-week intensive care unit capacity projections for these regions returned above the 15% threshold.

The ICU capacity in these regions fell below 15% in early December, remaining below the threshold since, with the SoCal region’s ICU capacity still reported to be at 0.0% as of Monday.

The four-week projection for ICU capacity for the SoCal region ending on Feb. 21 is expected to return above the threshold to 33.3%, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The data points that go into the projection were expected to be available on the state Public Health website Monday.

It’s these data points that state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, took issue with in a statement released Monday: “While this is great news for businesses and their employees up and down California, it begs the question, why now? The administration’s data metrics are secret, they are ‘too complicated’ for anyone to understand. Are they really too complicated, or are they just driven by politics? Who knows? One day, everything is closed and we are in crisis. The next day, it is all open. How are small-business owners and their employees supposed to plan? How can anyone be sure the governor will not shut us down again tomorrow?” 

Assemblywoman Suzette Valladares, R-Santa Clarita, agreed, adding, “Small businesses, restaurants, nail salons and barbershops are all desperate to open their doors, earn a living and serve our community, so today is a good day, and I encourage each and every one of us to support our local businesses. Having said that, the lack of transparency, the seemingly arbitrary decisions based on secretive data and the lack of collaboration with the legislative branch have been frustrating to say the least. I, like so many of my colleagues, have had to learn about major decisions, like the lifting of this order, via Twitter. I’m glad that the stay-at-home order has been lifted, and I will be getting a mani-pedi this weekend, but the public has a right to know what data the governor is using to make these decisions.”

“California is slowly starting to emerge from the most dangerous surge of this pandemic yet, which is the light at the end of the tunnel we’ve been hoping for,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in a prepared statement Monday. “Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and frontline medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible, and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”

While these are positive signs that California is slowing the spread of the virus, state Public Health officials want to remind residents that it’s still critical to continue wearing masks, maintaining physical distance of at least 6 feet, washing hands frequently, avoiding gatherings and mixing with other households, as well as following all state and local health department guidance and getting the vaccine when it’s their turn.

“We are anticipating still more declines in hospitalizations and more declines in ICU use, and that’s why we’re lifting that stay-at-home order effective immediately today,” Newsom said. “We’re seeing a flattening of the curve … but we are not out of the woods.”

Solis echoed these sentiments, adding, “Please don’t take this news to mean that you can return to life of normalcy. Masks, physical distancing and limiting activities are still key to getting out of this pandemic until we can get everybody vaccinated — we are not in the clear.” 

Signal Staff Writer Tammy Murga contributed to this report.

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