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Long Beach will enter the state’s “yellow” tier Thursday after city health officials finalized an updated health order that will increase capacity for many businesses in the city and let bars operate inside without having to serve food for the first time since the pandemic began last March.

The yellow tier is the state’s least restrictive level for reopening the economy and will largely allow restaurants, gyms, breweries and other businesses that have indoor operations to increase their operating capacity from the previous orange tier restrictions.

Los Angeles County health officials announced Tuesday that the county had met the threshold to enter the yellow tier and that its new health order expected to be released today will also go into effect Thursday.

LA County is the first in Southern California to achieve that mark since the state switched to color-coded tiers last year. It’s the only county south of Alpine County, a rural area near the Nevada border south of Lake Tahoe, that has moved into the state’s least restrictive tier.
 Mayor Robert Garcia said at a Wednesday press conference that the new health order would take effect at midnight.

“To all the bars that have been patiently waiting, we know this has been a difficult year,” Garcia said.

Bars will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity or 100 people, whichever is fewer. Two other sectors that will be allowed to operate in the yellow tier are saunas, spas and steam rooms as well as businesses tattooing or piercing patron’s faces or mouths.

The yellow tier guidelines also have incentives for even larger capacity increases if businesses require proof of a negative test or proof of full vaccination. The city’s order will follow the state’s guidelines for the yellow tier which allow restaurants, gyms, breweries and movie theaters to increase indoor capacity to 50%.

Breweries and other places serving alcohol will no longer be required to sell food with alcoholic beverages under the new guidelines. Patrons will still be required to wear masks when moving around and maintain social distancing.

Those limits could be higher if patrons are required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the last three days or prove that they’re fully vaccinated.

Private indoor gatherings are still discouraged by the city and are suggested to be kept at 50% capacity. The health order requests that private outdoor gatherings be capped at 200 people.

Dr. Anissa Davis, the city’s health officer thanked residents for their continued vigilance in trying to stop the spread of COVID-19 including adhering to local health orders, and more recently, getting vaccinated.

The city has vaccinated about 60% of residents over the age of 16 and are preparing for the potential vaccination of younger children by partnering with area schools to create vaccine sites in anticipation of federal regulators giving the green light for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to children as young as 12.

“Our smart choices are making an impact,” Davis said.

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.