State officials announced this morning that they have lifted all regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders—a move that could allow counties to reauthorize outdoor dining, as well as at least some services at gyms, barber shops and nail salons, among other businesses, according to multiple media reports.
The announcement—sent by the California Department of Public Health shortly after 8 a.m.—does not necessarily mean those activities would be automatically allowed. Any local jurisdictions, including health departments in Long Beach or Los Angeles County, can keep the stricter rules.
But, with the stay-at-home order lifted, counties now return to the color-coded tier system, according to the state.
Los Angeles and most counties in the state remain in the most-restrictive purple tier, which denotes the virus is “widespread.” Before the regional stay-at-home order plan went into effect, the purple tier rules allowed things like outdoor dining and limited operations at salons, barber shops and gyms.
“Californians heard the urgent message to stay home as much as possible and accepted that challenge to slow the surge and save lives,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, CDPH director and state public health officer, said in a statement. “Together, we changed our activities knowing our short-term sacrifices would lead to longer-term gains. COVID-19 is still here and still deadly, so our work is not over, but it’s important to recognize our collective actions saved lives and we are turning a critical corner.”
The decision comes with improving trends in the rate of infections, hospitalizations and intensive care unit capacity as well as vaccinations. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to address the public later Monday.
It’s not yet clear what the move could mean for Long Beach and Los Angeles County, which have suffered through some of their worst weeks of coronavirus deaths and hospitalizations this winter. However, the number of new cases has slowed down recently, and the number of people in the hospital for COVID-19 has declined in recent days—although that figure still remains higher than almost any other point in the pandemic.
LA County and Long Beach have not signaled whether they’ll follow the governor’s lead and loosen restrictions. Both jurisdictions have had tighter rules than the state at times.
In November, for instance, they moved to ban all dine-in service, including outdoor dining, even before the governor’s stay-at-home order was enacted.
Newsom imposed the order in December as coronavirus cases worsened. Under the system, a multi-county region had to shut down most businesses and order people to stay home if ICU capacity dropped below 15% according to a state formula that weights coronavirus patients as taking up more space in an ICU than other patients.
An 11-county Northern California region was never under the order. The Greater Sacramento Region exited the order last week. The state makes the decisions on when regions exit the stay-at-home order based on four-week projections showing ICU capacity improving, but officials have not disclosed the data behind the forecasts.
During the weekend, San Francisco Bay Area ICU capacity surged to 23% based on the state’s formula, while the San Joaquin Valley increased to 1.3%, its first time above zero. The huge Southern California region, the most populous, remains at zero ICU capacity.
City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with the state’s announcement that the orders were lifted.