Update: An earlier version of this story that said that indoor dining could reopen as soon as this weekend.
Los Angeles County is likely to move into a less restrictive tier of California’s three-tier reopening plan this weekend. When that happens, restaurants can return to indoor dining in a limited capacity — but that doesn’t mean it will resume right away.
At a meeting Tuesday morning, L.A. County’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, told the Board of Supervisors that she believes the county will move into the red tier this weekend. It remains unclear whether the loosened restrictions will go into effect immediately or whether the county must maintain those lower case and positivity rates for two weeks before reopenings can begin. We will update this story when we know more.
Currently, L.A. County is in the most restrictive purple tier. Aside from takeout and delivery, restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms can only serve customers outdoors and only with modifications. Bars, breweries and distilleries must remain closed.
When we move to the less restrictive red tier, restaurants can serve patrons indoors at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower. Wineries and tasting rooms can still only serve patrons outdoors. Bars, breweries and distilleries must remain closed.
When we eventually move to the orange tier, restaurants can increase their indoor dining capaciy to 50% while wineries and tasting rooms can begin offering indoor service at 25% capacity. Bars, breweries and distilleries can finally reopen and begin serving patrons outdoors.
Currently, only Alpine and Sierra counties, in Northern California, are in the orange tier. No counties are in the least restrictive yellow tier.
WHEN WILL THE MOVE HAPPEN?
Southern California officials originally thought L.A. County’s move to the red tier would occur near the end of March. But at Monday’s coronavirus briefing, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health said it was “highly likely” it would happen by the middle of next week. At today’s Board of Supervisors meeting, she sped up that timeline.
Why so soon?
Coronavirus cases in the county have dropped to their lowest levels since before the deadly winter holiday surge.
Officials also changed their vaccine distribution strategy to focus on innoculating L.A. County’s most vulnerable residents.
Plus, California shifted the benchmarks on when counties can move through the reopening tiers.
Under the new guidelines, if a county has a daily rate of 7 to 10 coronavirus cases for two straight weeks, it will automatically move to the red tier on the day the state has administered 2 million doses of the vaccine in hard-hit communities.
Last week, L.A. County’s adjusted case rate was 7.2 new cases per 100,000.
Once 4 million doses of the vaccine are distributed in underserved areas, California will loosen its reopening rules again, making it easier for regions to move into the orange and yellow tiers.
In Northern California, seven counties including Santa Clara and San Francisco have already resumed indoor dining because they moved into the red tier.
WHAT ELSE IS NEW?
At yesterday’s briefing, Dr. Christina Ghaly, the County Health Services Director, announced that you no longer need an appointment to get a COVID-19 test at any of the 18 test sites run by L.A County.
Ferrer, however, also warned people not to get complacent. She noted that infections are ticking up in other states and we don’t live in a bubble. She also warned that L.A. County doesn’t have enough vaccinated residents to stop another spike in cases, especially if people travel or attend large gatherings for Easter, Passover and Spring Break.
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