California lifts regional stay-at-home orders, allowing counties to ease rules on businesses

California

California public health officials lifted all regional stay-at-home orders in the state Monday, allowing counties to ease some restrictions on outdoor dining and personal care services during the pandemic.

The three regions that were still under the order — Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area — can return to the Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework, which assigns individual counties to one of four tiers based on COVID-19 case and positivity rates.

That system, originally introduced in August, lets restaurants offer outdoor dining and allows personal care businesses to offer services indoors while following safety precautions — even in counties where coronavirus transmission remains widespread.

Of California’s 58 counties, all but four are still in the most restrictive tier, purple or “widespread.” Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties are among those in the purple tier.

A graph from the California state website on Jan. 25, 2021 shows the four tiers under the "Blueprint for a Safe Economy" framework.
A graph from the California state website on Jan. 25, 2021, shows the four tiers under the “Blueprint for a Safe Economy” framework.

Under the return to the county framework, local jurisdictions can continue to implement rules stricter than the state guidelines. But on Monday, shortly after the state’s announcement, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties soon announced lifting the ban on outdoor dining and indoor personal care services.

In L.A. County, which has particularly struggled with the coronavirus, officials announced that outdoor dining and other activities allowed under the California blueprint will be permitted by the end of the week.

The county had an outdoor dining ban before the state announced its own, and it was met with backlash. Local restaurants had sought in court to block it, with a hearing set for next month.

In November, L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger introduced a motion that would’ve allowed restaurants to serve diners outdoors, but it failed on a 3-2 vote.

Before the county’s announcement Monday, Barger expressed support for lifting restrictions for restaurants and personal care services, acknowledging the “devastating social, emotional and economic impacts of this virus.”

Supervisor Janice Hahn, who also supported lifting the ban in November, also pushed to allow outdoor dining to resume early Monday, saying in a statement: “Now that Governor Newsom has lifted the statewide stay-at-home order, the question is what is L.A. County going to do?”

Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis, who voted against the November motion, said she was pleased with the state’s announcement, noting the recent dip in cases and hospitalizations in the county. But she cautioned that “we cannot let our guard down again. We’ve seen what it means when that happens, when we visit with others in their homes, attend large gatherings, and run errands like we did pre-pandemic.”

She added, “We must continue to meet the moment and defeat this virus as soon as possible. That means keeping ourselves and loved ones safe with masks, physical distancing, and getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to us.”

The state’s latest announcement comes as officials try to ramp up vaccinations and hospitalization rates show signs of improvement.

The California health department said the four-week ICU capacity projected for Southern California, the Bay Area and San Joaquin Valley are above 15% — the threshold that would have allowed them to exit the regional stay-at-home order.

“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,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, the California Health and Human Services secretary, said in a statement.

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