LA County could be headed to the next reopening tier in early April for the first time since the beginning of the global pandemic. The potential move to the orange tier would be the first shift into that tier, just over 1 year removed from the first lockdown. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer cautioned that the move will only happen if the public continues to follow safety protocols and the country’s case numbers continue to improve.
It’s highly likely [that] if we continue to make good progress, that next week and the week after, we could have those qualifying rate numbers, but what I want to go back to, with a note of caution, is we have to keep our numbers going down. We can’t have any surge in case numbers for these 3 weeks.-Barbara Ferrer, LA County Public Health Director
(quote courtesy of LAist)
What Does the Orange Tier Mean?
Unless you’ve been following along closely with the rollout of Governor Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, you are likely a bit lost when it comes to what each tier actually means. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable changes that the orange tier delivers:
- Most indoor businesses can increase capacity:
- Wineries, breweries, distilleries can reopen indoors at 25%
- Bars can reopen outdoors
- Restaurants can open indoors with max 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer
- Churches and places of worship can open indoors at 50%
- Family entertainment centers can open indoors at a max 25% capacity
- Gyms and fitness centers can open indoors with max 25% capacity
- Museums, zoos, aquariums can open indoors with modifications (indoor activities can open with max 50% capacity
- Movie theaters can open indoors with max 50% capacity or 200 people, whichever is fewer
- Non-essential offices can allow employees to return (remote work is still recommended)
Other Counties on the Move
As of today, nine California counties are moving up the color tier, including six counties moving into the orange tier. The new orange tier members include Lassen, Marin, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Trinity, and Yolo. California even noted that a green tier will be unveiled soon, with even fewer restrictions. In addition, another vaccine may soon be available to U.S. citizens, as the AstraZeneca vaccine nears the conclusion of late-stage trials. If approved by the FDA for emergency use, that would make 4 viable vaccines available across the country, which could considerably hasten reopenings here in California.
Vaccines Continue to Curb Transmission
Angelenos continue to receive COVID-19 vaccines in growing numbers, which is significantly contributing to the reduced transmission rates. LA County has vaccinated nearly 3.7 million residents, approximately 37% of its total population. Meanwhile, the full vaccination number sits at just over 1 million, at the time of this posting. However, that could change and change quickly in the coming 5 weeks. Governor Newsom said he expects that California will soon phase out its COVID-19 vaccine priority tiers, making all adults (16 and over) eligible.
Though this news is both great and hopeful, questions linger: How long will the vaccine protect us? How far out is that protection? How effective will that protection hold against future transmission?
Above all, only time will tell if LA County and other counties in California can continue to follow safety protocols and safely move into the orange tier in the coming weeks.