Los Angeles County restaurants will again welcome customers indoors and movie theaters and fitness centers will be able to reopen, all at limited capacity, beginning at 12:01 a.m. Monday when the county advances to a less-restrictive tier in the state’s “Blueprint for a Safer Economy.”
County officials confirmed the move Friday, when the state met the threshold of administering 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in low-income communities across California that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic.
When it met that threshold, the state eased the requirements for counties to advance through the four tiers of the blueprint, which governs business restrictions based on the spread of COVID-19. The new requirements allow Los Angeles County to move out of the most restrictive “purple” tier and into the “red” tier.
Under “red” tier guidelines announced by the Los Angeles County Thursday, indoor dining can resume at 25% of capacity. The county will require restaurants to have 8 feet of distance between all tables, which will be restricted to a maximum of six people from the same household. The rules also call for ventilation to be increased “to the maximum extent possible.”
Restaurant servers are already required to wear a face mask and a face shield. With the new rules, the Department of Public Health “strongly recommends” that employees upgrade their face coverings, through the use of higher-grade N95 or KN95 masks, or a combination of double-masking and a face shield.
Health officials also strongly recommend — but do not require — that all employees be informed about and offered the chance to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Food service workers are already eligible to receive the shots.
Rules for other businesses that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday largely align with state guidance for the “red” tier:
— gyms and fitness centers can open indoors at 10% capacity, with required masking;
— movie theaters can open at 25% capacity with reserved seating to provide at least six feet of distance between patrons;
— retail and personal care businesses can increase indoor capacity to 50%;
— indoor shopping malls can reopen at 50%, with common areas remaining closed, but food courts can open at 25% capacity and in adherence with the other requirements for indoor restaurants.
The rules also permit resumption of activities at institutes of higher education, and reopening of in-person instruction for students in grades 7- 12. Private indoor gatherings are also permitted for people from up to three different households, with masking and physical distancing. People who are vaccinated can gather in small groups indoors without masking or distancing.
“This is welcome news, especially as many of our small businesses have borne the brunt of the financial fallout from this pandemic, and as our students struggle to keep up with distance learning,” county Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis said. “We have achieved this milestone and moved down to the `red’ tier because as a county we worked hard, looked out for one another and came together to defeat the dark winter surge.
Los Angeles County has not announced any plans to adopt the new guidelines on non-food-serving breweries and wineries. Counties are permitted to impose tougher restrictions than the state.
The move to the “red” tier comes thanks to an adjustment announced last week by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who set the goal of administering 2 million vaccine doses in hard-hit communities to ensure equity in vaccine distribution. Newsom earmarked 40% of the state’s vaccine supply to those communities in an effort to further that goal.
When the milestone was met, counties were cleared to move out of the most restrictive “purple” tier of the blueprint when their average rate of daily new COVID-19 infections reaches 10 per 100,000 residents — a looser standard than the previous 7 per 100,000 residents.
Under the new guidelines, Los Angeles County immediately qualified to move to the less-restrictive “red” tier, since it has been under the 10 per 100,000 standard for two weeks. Los Angeles County’s new case rate is currently 5.2 per 100,000 residents, while Orange County’s is 6 per 100,000.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer warned the county Board of Supervisors this week that while case numbers and the testing- positivity rate in the county have declined precipitously in recent weeks, things could easily worsen if residents become lax about infection-control measures.
That sentiment was echoed Friday by County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, who urged residents to continue exercising caution, warning, “Just because certain activities are allowed and current reopening protocols are revised, it does not mean those activities are safe and without risk.”
“These reopenings are the result of a great deal of hard work and sacrifice by businesses and individuals alike,” Davis said. “Thank you to everyone who has had to endure sacrifices and who have made preventing COVID-19 part of their day-to-day life. As certain activities are allowed to resume, we urge all residents to proceed with caution. COVID-19 case rates, hospitalizations and deaths continue to fall, but still remain very high.”
On Friday, the county reported another 101 COVID-19 deaths. The new deaths lifted the countywide death toll from throughout the pandemic to 22,404. Another 947 cases were announced by the county. The new cases raised the cumulative pandemic total to 1,208,913. View the latest detailed report by city and demographics here.
According to state figures, there were 979 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID as of Friday, with 285 people in intensive care. It marked the first since the winter case surge began that the hospitalization number has been below 1,000.