L.A., Orange counties meet red tier threshold, could reopen some businesses next week if metrics hold

Local news

With coronavirus case rates down and vaccinations increasing, the counties of Los Angeles and Orange both announced Tuesday that they’re moving closer to limited reopenings of movie theaters, gyms and some other indoor venues.

While L.A. and Orange counties have met the case rate and test positivity requirements for entering the red tier, for now they both remain in the most restrictive tier, the purple, under the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

If their metrics hold, the counties could officially join the red tier March 17. On Monday, public health Director Barbara Ferrer said it was “highly likely” L.A. County would advance before the middle of next week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan originally required a county’s case rate remain below seven new cases per 100,000 residents, and test positivity rate at or below 8%, for two straight weeks before it could advance.

But the state adjusted its guidelines last week as part of an effort to accelerate vaccine distribution in California’s most vulnerable communities.

Now, if a purple tier county has been at a case rate between seven and 10 per 100,000 for two weeks straight, it can move into the red tier on the day the state hits 2 million doses administered in underserved communities.

On Monday, Ferrer said that once L.A. County qualifies to move into the red tier, it could take effect within 48 hours. But county public health officials are still working with the Board of Supervisors to hammer out an official reopening plan for the county, which can differ from state guidelines.

L.A. County’s adjusted case rate dropped from 7.2 new cases per 100,000 people to 5.2 new cases per 100,000 people, while the test positivity is at 2.5%, health officials said in a news release Tuesday.

In Orange County, officials say they’ve also been under the red tier threshold for a week and could advance next week if the metrics hold.

“Thanks to the diligence of our residents and business operators, we’re on the cusp of moving to the Red Tier, but we must remember to not let our guard down and continue adhering to local health guidance,” O.C. Board of Supervisors Chair Andrew Do said in a statement.

Once a county moves into the red tier, indoor dining, movie theaters, gyms and places of worship can open with limited capacity, among other businesses. Click here for a full list and details.

In-person learning is also permitted for students in seventh through 12th grade, but individual districts and teachers unions will still make the final call on school reopenings.

The majority of the California’s population remains under purple tier rules. Of the state’s 58 counties, 20 have advanced into the red tier, three into the orange tier and only one, Alpine County, into the least-restrictive yellow tier.

Most of those that have advanced are in Northern California, with only San Luis Obispo and Imperial counties joining the red tier in the southern half of the state. Earlier Tuesday, another three Bay Area counties — Alameda, Santa Cruz and Solano — moved forward into the red tier.

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