ORANGE, CA — As Orange County slowly reopens businesses and readies to reopen schools, signs continue to show the coronavirus is slowing its march across the county. On Sunday, the County reported no new COVID-19 and just 170 new cases.
Another promising sign is the continuing drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations. On Saturday, they fell from 215 to 196, and the number of intensive care unit patients dropped from 65 to 58, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency. Health officials are watching the numbers closely to make sure reopenings don't lead to another sureg that could overwhelm hospitals.
Since the pandemic hit, the county has confirmed 50,930 cases and 1,093 coronavirus fatalities. The county's daily case count per 100,000 people stands at 5.2, and the seven-day rate of residents testing positive for the coronavirus is 4.2%The OCHCA reported that 737,558 COVID-19 tests have been conducted, including 5,136 reported Sunday. There have been 45,197 documented recoveries.
The improved numbers came as people were returning to movie theaters across the county this weekend. Regal Cinemas re-opened at Irvine Spectrum and AMC opened its larger locations across the county -- both with limited capacity to guard against further spread of the virus.
Orange County was upgraded from the purple to the red tier in California's coronavirus monitoring system last week. The move allowed for churches, theaters and other businesses to resume indoor operations, but with strict limits on capacity and other health measures in place.
Theaters, restaurants and churches are restricted to 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is less. Museums, zoos and aquariums also may reopen indoor activities at 25% capacity. Shopping centers may expand from 25% capacity to half-capacity under the red tier, while gyms can reopen, but at 10% capacity.
The theater chains are instituting many other safety protocols as well.
Regal guests will be required to wear face masks at all times while in the auditoriums unless eating and drinking. Two empty seats will be maintained between groups, and the chain is "increasing our fresh air intake by 50%-100% above normal levels (which will help circulate more fresh air throughout auditoriums)."
Regal employees will undergo daily health screenings including temperature checks where mandated, will be required to wash their hands every 30 to 60 minutes, and all employees will be required to wear masks.
Guests can purchase concessions with a mobile app while in the theater, but menu offerings have been reduced, and self-service condiment stands are closed.
Regal's Edwards Aliso Viejo & IMAX theater also opened Saturday.
Meanwhile, AMC had re-opened its Orange County multiplexes as of Saturday, including the Anaheim GardenWalk 6, Dine-In Fullerton 20, Orange 30, and Tustin 14 at The District.
AMC locations have similar capacity restrictions and safety protocols in place for guests and employees.
City News Service and Patch Staffer Paige Austin contributed to this report.