Long Beach, LA County to loosen COVID-19 restrictions this week and next week

Los Angeles County officials said they will largely align with the state in allowing more businesses to reopen, and allow more capacity at those already open, after qualifying for a less-restrictive tier of coronavirus rules on Tuesday.

The loosened restrictions at the county level will take effect Monday, April 5. Long Beach, which can set its own rules through its health department, said it will change its health order to align with the state, likely taking effect some time Thursday.

The county and city can make the adjustments now that they’ve qualified for the “orange” tier in the state’s business-reopening blueprint for COVID-19, which will allow bars that do not serve food to open for the first time in nearly a year. These businesses will be limited to outdoor operations only, with other safety precautions and are required to close from 11:30 p.m. to 10 a.m.

The county will also allow breweries that do not serve food to open indoors as long as they require reservations, and there can be no live entertainment or television viewing indoors, Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, said during a media briefing Tuesday.

Other new provisions:

  • Restaurants can host guests indoors at 50% capacity of 200 people, whichever is less.
  • Card rooms can move indoors at 25% capacity, with 8 feet distance between tables; food and beverage service will remain banned.
  • Houses of worship can operate indoors at 50% capacity.
  • Fitness centers can operate at 25% indoors, and indoor pools can reopen.
  • Movie theaters can operate at 50% or 200 people, whichever is less.
  • Personal care services, grocery stores and retail can operate at 75% capacity.
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums can operate at 50% indoor capacity.

Qualifying for the orange tier requires a county to have an average daily rate of new COVID infections of 3.9 per 100,000 residents, along with a testing-positivity rate of 4.9% or less, and maintain those levels for two consecutive weeks.

According to weekly figures released by the state Tuesday, Los Angeles had a new case rate of 3.6 per 100,000 residents, and a testing-positivity rate of 1.3%. Both numbers were down from last week, when the county’s case rate was 3.7 per 100,000 residents, and the testing-positivity rate of 1.8%.

State rules technically require counties to remain in a tier for three weeks before advancing in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, and Los Angeles County has only been in the red tier for a little over two weeks. With the new numbers, however, the state cleared Los Angeles County to move into the orange tier despite the three-week requirement.

Despite the pending move to the orange tier, health officials are continuing to preach vigilance, warning that cases have been rising in other states and countries. They said the continued emergence of COVID-19 variants that can spread more easily from person to person could lead to another surge in cases.

County officials also fear that upcoming spring break activities—along with the Easter and Passover holidays—could prompt gatherings that threaten to quickly spread the virus.

“While COVID-19 numbers have decreased in LA County, transmission remains widespread and is increasing in many other states and countries,” the county Department of Public Health warned Sunday.

Editor’s note: This story has updated with information from Los Angeles County, and comment from city of Long Beach officials. 

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