Los Angeles Moves To Least Restrictive Yellow Tier As Pandemic Numbers Hit Record Lows

·4 min read

Los Angeles County officially qualified for the least-restrictive Yellow tier in the state’s Covid-19 reopening blueprint today. San Francisco and tiny Trinity County advanced from the Orange tier into Yellow. That’s about 11 million California residents who will be able to move more freely. It’s also remarkable, given that L.A. and S.F. are among the most densely-populated counties in the state and were once among its most infected regions.

Los Angeles is the only Southern California county to advance to the yellow tier. The rest of the region will remain in the Orange tier — sad news for Disneyland fans. But Orange County’s Covid-related hospitalizations fell out of triple digits for the first time in months on Monday, while the county also reported just 55 new infections and did not log any new fatalities.

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On Monday L.A. also announced zero Covid-19 deaths — for the second day in a row — although the numbers are likely due to weekend reporting lag. The entire state of California on Tuesday reported only two deaths related to the pandemic.

Coronavirus hospitalizations in CA fell to a pandemic-record low on Monday. The state also had a record-low 1.1 percent test positivity rate on Monday. Meanwhile, the state’s northern neighbors Oregon and Washington are shutting down again due to a spring surge.

Reaching the Yellow tier requires a county to have an adjusted average daily rate of new Covid cases less 2 per 100,000 residents — and maintain that rate for two weeks. Last week, L.A. County’s rate fell to 1.9 per 100,000 residents. On Tuesday that adjusted rate was 1.6 per 100,000, a record low for the region. That means the county may officially advance to the Yellow tier on Wednesday, although the relaxed restrictions that come with the move will not take effect in Los Angeles until Thursday, according to Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Entering the Yellow tier allows higher capacity limits at most businesses, including movie theaters, concert venues and theme parks. State guidelines say fitness centers, cardrooms, wineries and breweries, for instance, are permitted to increase indoor attendance to 50% of capacity, up from the current 25%; bars are able to open indoors at 25%; outdoor venues such as Dodger Stadium can increase capacity to 67%, up from the previous 33%; and amusement parks such as Universal Studios, which began allowing fully-vaccinated out-of-state visitors last week, could go to 35% capacity, up from 25%. Some venues where all customers are fully vaccinated can make even larger increases. Local health officials are allowed to be more strict, but Ferrer said on Monday, “We will be aligning fairly significantly with the direction the state is going.”

Movie theaters, for instance, allowed to reopen to “50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer” in the Orange tier now may “increase capacity by an additional 50%, up to a maximum of 50% of total venue capacity,” under state rules if all patrons are fully vaccinated. In other words, there is no longer a 200-person maximum and the limit is 75% capacity if everyone has their shots. According to Ferrer, 37% of Angelenos are fully vaccinated. That’s about 3.7 million people.

In a matter of weeks, there may be no restrictions at all.

“We’ll be opening up on June 15, this economy…business as usual,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said last month. “We are announcing now that on June 15 we will be getting rid of the colored [reopening] tiers.” Earlier that day, the state’s top health official spoke in detail about the planned reopening.

“The Blueprint as it’s devised now will no longer be in effect as of June 15,” said California Director of Health Services Dr. Mark Ghaly on Tuesday. He was referring to the state’s tiered reopening plan, which has kept some businesses closed and allowed others to slowly reopen. Ghaly emphasized that the date will hold so long as vaccines are available and so long as the state sees a low level of disease.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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