Outdoor dining is expected to resume by Friday, Jan. 29, Los Angeles County Public Health officials announced hours after the state lifted a health order prohibiting the practice.
Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that he was lifting a stay-at-home order that has been in effect since early December, returning counties to the statewide guidelines of the tiered system, which allows in-person dining outdoors. L.A. County officials said later that day that they would issue a health order on Friday allowing restaurants to serve patrons outdoors.
The county will also rescind a curfew for nonessential businesses that requires them to close from 10 p.m.-5 a.m.
Personal care services such as hair and nail salons were able to open at 25% indoor capacity starting Monday, and outdoor private gatherings are allowed when limited to three households and a total of 15 people. Museums, zoos and aquariums can also reopen for outdoor operations at 50% capacity.
La Cañada Flintridge Mayor Mike Davitt said he and other city officials are “thrilled” that the state and county are allowing businesses to reopen — even if it is at limited capacity.
“We hope that this limited reopening will be a boost to businesses who have struggled for many months,” he wrote in an email. “The county and state have said this decision is based upon factual scientific data. With that, I hope that these businesses will not have to shut down again. I would encourage all our residents to support our local businesses and do so in a safe manner.”
Many restrictions remain in place, however. L.A. County, like most of the state, is in the purple tier in the state’s recovery blueprint, indicating widespread coronavirus transmission and requiring many nonessential businesses to halt indoor operations.
Newsom’s December health order restricted many sectors based on a region’s intensive care unit capacity, which, in Southern California, has remained at 0% for more than a month.
However, Newsom pointed to encouraging indicators that the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations was improving, saying that Southern California was projected to be at 33.3% ICU capacity by Feb. 21. He also explained that the state’s projection of ICU capacity relies on multiple variables, including estimated available capacity, community transmission, case rates and ICU admission rates.
But Newsom and other officials reminded residents that improvement in those statistics could change if individuals and businesses flouted restrictions.
“Everything that should be up is up. Everything that should be down is down,” Newsom said Monday, explaining that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 had decreased by 20% over two weeks. “But we are not out of the woods.”
L.A. County’s public health department announced on Saturday that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 had fallen to 6,881. It was the first time the figure had dropped below 7,000 since Dec. 29, but officials also announced that day that more than 15,000 people in the county had died from the coronavirus since it began.
“More restrictions may be needed if noncompliance leads to hospitalizations and transmission,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said on Monday. “We need to be vigilant and always do what is best for our residents. While we continue to wait for more vaccines to come, our actions still matter a great deal.”
La Cañada was not immune to the post-Thanksgiving surge that affected nearly the entire state. Cases more than doubled since Dec. 1 when the county had reported a total of 267 coronavirus cases. As of Tuesday, there have been 645 cases of COVID-19 in and 12 deaths to the disease.
VACCINE ELIGIBILITY SHIFTS
Newsom also announced Monday that the state will switch to an age-based vaccine eligibility system after those who are 65 and older, as well as first responders, health-care workers, agricultural workers and school staff members, receive vaccines.
Currently, in L.A. county, health-care workers, long-term care residents and people 65 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine. But many have complained that the state’s vaccine rollout has been slow, with some worrying there aren’t enough doses or that the wrong groups are being prioritized.
“We’re not losing sight of any of those fundamentals, any of our values,” Newsom said, “but we realize we have got to increase throughput here, and while we are proud of the framework we put out, CDC put out … we recognize it has advantages, and it has disadvantages as it relates [to] speed and efficiency.”
Newsom also said that the state had launched a pilot service at myturn.ca.gov, a web application that allows residents to be notified when they are eligible to receive the vaccine.
ATHLETES STAND BY FOR UPDATE FROM COUNTY
Newsom’s announcement of lifting the stay-at-home order moved counties back into the state’s blueprint for a safer economy, a color-tiered metric based on test positivity and adjusted case rates for COVID-19 and all but four of 58 counties are in the purple tier, indicating widespread infection.
It also gave athletes and coaches a green light to resume athletic activities.
“We are seeing a flattening of the curve,” he said. “Certain youth sports can resume for competition, in particular with modifications and considerations.”
However, Los Angeles County’s reopening protocol for youth sports leagues — which has not been updated since Oct. 22 — does not permit competition at the moment. The only fall sport that can be played while in the purple tier is cross-country, in which dual meets can be held should public health officials allow it.
The CIF Southern Section canceled playoffs for fall sports last week, but athletic directors from La Cañada High School, Flintridge Prep, Flintridge Sacred Heart and St. Francis remain committed to giving their student-athletes a season.
“It was disappointing to see another CIF season go by without playoffs, but we also understand that they are looking out for the health and safety of everyone involved with athletics,” said Flintridge Prep athletic director Sean Beattie, who oversees one of the most successful cross-country programs in the Southern Section. “The [Prep League] is talking to each other now and trying to figure out the best and safest way to move forward and hopefully get our athletes a few competitions once it is safe to do so.”
— Oscar Areliz contributed to this report.