California cancels regional COVID-19 stay-at-home orders
The action by state officials means restaurants could soon reopen outdoor dining and hair and nail salons could reopen with restrictions. Counties will make the final call, however.
California officials lifted regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders across the state Jan. 25, a change that could allow restaurants in many counties to reopen outdoor dining and permit hair and nail salons to offer limited services indoors.
All counties will return to the colored tier system that assigns local risk levels based on case numbers and rates of positive test results for coronavirus infections.
Most counties will be classified under the purple, or “widespread,” risk tier.
The change, which takes effect immediately, could lessen restrictions in the Southern California region, which includes San Diego County, unless local officials adopt stronger restrictions.
“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,” said California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. “Seven weeks ago, our hospitals and frontline medical workers were stretched to their limits, but Californians heard the urgent message to stay home when possible and our surge after the December holidays did not overwhelm the health care system to the degree we had feared.”
The outdoor dining ban under the regional stay-at-home orders has been highly controversial, with some elected officials and the restaurant industry fighting in and out of court to overturn it.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the regional orders on Dec. 3 in an effort to reduce the strain on hospitals as coronavirus case numbers surged. Although state data show hospital systems in Southern California remain strained, the Newsom administration said models project intensive care unit capacity will exceed 15 percent — a threshold for lifting the regional shutdowns — over the next four weeks.
Earlier this month, Newsom lifted stay-at-home orders for the Greater Sacramento region.
State officials have not released a full accounting of how four-week ICU calculations were being made. And although services were allowed to reopen in the Sacramento region on Dec. 13, daily reports of available intensive care beds never approached the 15 percent threshold deemed necessary to cancel the restrictions. ICU capacity in the Northern California region, which is not under the stay-at-home order, has continued to remain above the state’s shutdown benchmarks.
Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley region reported little to no ICU capacity as of Jan. 23.
After a winter surge, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are beginning to decline across the state.
But California is continuing to see a record-breaking number of deaths from COVID-19, a lagging indicator of the surge.
Despite positive developments, officials are expressing growing concerns about new and potentially more contagious variants of the coronavirus that have been detected in California and beyond.
— Taryn Luna is a reporter for the Los Angeles Times
— Los Angeles Times staff writers John Myers and Paloma Esquivel contributed to this report. ◆
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