State lets O.C. resume in-person dining, reopen malls with restrictions

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The state has approved Orange County’s request to reopen more businesses under the second phase of California’s four-stage recovery plan, officials announced Saturday.

The following will be permitted with social distancing requirements and other restrictions, according to the county:

As part of the third stage of the state’s reopening roadmap, businesses deemed to be at a higher risk during the COVID-19 pandemic—such as hair salons and entertainment venues—are excluded from Saturday’s announcement.

O.C. is the latest of some 45 out of 58 counties allowed to move forward after Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a stay-at-home order that shut down much of the state’s businesses in the effort to curb the novel coronavirus.

As the region prepared to resume more operations in time for the Memorial Day weekend, the county’s health officer issued a new order Saturday requiring all residents and visitors to wear a facial covering in public.

Officials announced submitting the request for accelerated reopening Thursday as the county reported the highest number of COVID-19 fatalities in a single day with 14 deaths. Ten of those patients lived in skilled nursing facilities, according to the O.C. Health Care Agency.

But despite those numbers, the county has met the requirements to advance under Stage Two of California’s reopening plan, O.C. Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel said in a statement..

Those conditions include reporting no more than 20 COVID-19 hospitalizations on any single day over the past two weeks; having fewer than 25 new cases per 100,000 residents in the same time period; the ability to test 1.5 people per 1,000 residents; having at least 15 staffers trained and available for contact tracing per 100,000 residents; and having the hospital capacity for a potential surge of 35% of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 cases, in addition to providing care for other patients.

“We’re confident in how the Orange County business community will work to ensure the safety and welfare of their staff and customers alike,” Supervisor Doug Chaffee said in a statement from the county. “Our goal is to ensure the safe re-opening of businesses that meet the Stage Two criteria so that we can work toward re-opening more sectors of Orange County’s economy.”

South Coast Plaza, the upscale Costa Mesa shopping center, said it has already received the green light from the county to reopen June 1. It had been offering curbside pickup for about a week.

“We are thrilled to learn that we are now allowed to reopen to the public,” Debra Gunn Downing, a spokeswoman, wrote in an email to KTLA. “South Coast Plaza and its retailers and restaurants are ready with new social distancing measures and other significant protocols designed to provide a safe and welcoming shopping experience for our visitors.”

On Saturday, Orange County reported 12 new deaths—bringing the total to 130. More than 5,100 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the county, according to authorities.

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