California allows O.C. to enter less restrictive 2nd tier, paving way for more reopenings

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California has given the go-ahead to Orange County to enter a less restrictive phase of the state’s COVID-19 reopening framework on Tuesday.

The county was among five that were allowed to move from the most restrictive first stage (purple) into the second stage (red) of the state’s four-tiered, color-coded system that was unveiled last month by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

In the red tier, more business sectors are allowed to reopen with modifications, while other businesses that are already welcoming customers can increase their capacity or open more services.

Dine-in restaurants, movie theaters and places of worship are among the sectors that can open again, provided capacity is limited to 25% or 100 people — whichever is fewer. Nail salons can also resume services indoors with modifications.

And for parents and students, schools will be permitted to fully reopen once the county has been in the second stage for two weeks. However, elementary schools and in-person instruction for a limited number of students can proceed before then with permission from local school and health officials.

Previously, San Diego was the only county in Southern California to not be classified as having “widespread” risk level under the state’s new system.

For days, Orange County had anticipated the move as its COVID-19 numbers met the state’s threshold to move into the next stage. The county’s last reported numbers — from Monday — showed 113 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and no deaths over a 24-hour period.

Amador, Placer, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz are the other four counties that are allowed to move into the red tier, California’s Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced at a news conference.

After the purple tier, a county must maintain the metrics for the next tier for two consecutive weeks in order to move forward in the state’s phased reopening.

That means the earliest Orange County can be moved to the third tier (orange) is Sept. 29 — and only after it reaches 1 to 3.9 new daily cases per 1,000 and a testing positivity rate of 2 to 4.9% for two straight weeks.

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